It turned out that the only thing that could stop Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman as his made his third straight Opening Day start on Monday was the weather.
Between a pair of rain delays that lasted nearly three hours combined, Tillman was dominating, throwing two perfect innings against the Minnesota Twins and striking out five of the six batters he faced.
Tillman took the mound following a 101-minute rain delay. And after inducing a pop-up from leadoff hitter Brian Dozier on his first pitch of the game, he struck out the next five batters he faced before the tarp was placed on the field again.
It was a small sample size, but his fastball was popping, averaging 93.3 mph, nearly two mph higher than his average fastball velocity last year. He used his curveball early in the count to keep the Twins off his fastball and he went to his seldom-used slider to strike out Byung Ho Park looking to end the second inning.
Tillman's aggressiveness allowed him to be effective with his pitches – 17 of his 22 pitches were strikes – something he struggled with last season.
But following a 70-minute rain delay, Tillman was done for the day, replaced by right-hander Tyler Wilson when play resumed. Because he only went two innings on Monday, the Orioles could conceivably bring Tillman back on short rest.
Tillman posted a 4.99 ERA last season, going 11-11, and owned a 6.22 ERA in 11 starts after rolling his left ankle coming off the mound during a game on July 29.
Earlier this spring, Tillman didn't use the ankle injury as an excuse, but he said the injury to his landing leg created some bad mechanics that he battled down the stretch.
Tillman posted a 7.24 ERA this spring, but he pitched only 13 2/3 Grapefruit League innings, his spring debut delayed nearly two weeks by a left groin strain. In his last spring outing, he held the Detroit Tigers to one run on three hits over four innings.