Chris Tillman and Tommy Hunter believe Orioles can adapt to change

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles realize that they not only lost production, but also veteran leadership with the offseason departures of Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller.

In replacing that void, players are confident there will be others to step up.


Take into consideration right-handed pitchers Tommy Hunter and Chris Tillman, who dodged the raindrops Monday during the start of this week's three-day minicamp at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

They don't have to be here in Sarasota for spring training for another five weeks, but they both came to Florida to get a head start on preparation.


Hunter was closing on buying a condominium in the area. Tillman is looking for a place.

But is it important for the young pitchers at the minicamp to see veteran pitchers here early to set an example?

"I think it's just something that comes with baseball," Hunter said. "The longer you stick around, the more you know what's going on. I think more of what those guys do is set an example, and people follow it. I think there's been an example set here.

"When did all this [stuff] start turning around, Tilly?" Hunter said, turning to Tillman.

"When that guy came," Tillman said, nodding in the direction of manager Buck Showalter.

"There was a bar set, and guys have to reach it," Hunter continued. "If you don't reach it, somebody else is going to. I think that's the standard around here. Minicamp's going on, there are guys out here playing ball and guys want to be a part of something. If you get enough guys on the same page, you're going to create something pretty good. I think we've got quite a few guys outside of the 25-man [roster], outside of the 40-man. You're talking about a good program to be a part of right now. Guys are here."

Tillman said it will be difficult to replace the players the Orioles have lost, especially Markakis, but change is a part of the game.

"It's tough to see those guys go, especially Nicky," Tillman said. "I've been with him since spring 2008, around him since 2009. You're not only losing a good player, but probably one of the best players you can ask for. I was actually in Paris at Manny [Machado's] wedding [when I learned Markakis had signed with the Atlanta Braves]. Someone texted me, did you hear it? No, I didn't hear it. It was tough. I think we're more than capable of moving on from this. It's baseball. It happens with every team, I think.


"I think we have a good team. We had a good team before. With Nicky and Nelly out there, we had a great team, but at the same time, I think we're capable of doing some special things without them. Would it be easier with them? Probably. It's baseball. It happens with everybody. No one's going to feel bad for us."

Both Tillman and Hunter have been Orioles long enough that they've bought into Showalter's philosophy that losing players just creates an opportunity for others to step up.

"When one door opens, there's probably going to be three or four people wanting to put their foot in the door, especially here," Hunter said. "It's a competition. It's been brought up that way, and everybody knows that they have a chance to play baseball here. Losing guys like that just means it's going to give an opportunity for other guys. I think Buck says that quote quite a bit, actually."

And the Orioles will depend on the returns of catcher Matt Wieters and Machado from injury, as well as a rebound season from first baseman Chris Davis, who served all but one game of a 25-game suspension at the end of last year for taking Adderall without an exemption.

"Having ... Wieters come back, Manny come back, they weren't there for the whole year," Hunter said. "You lose somebody, you gain somebody else. I don't know. I think we got a pretty good squad still. I think the squad that we have right now, minus Markakis, is the same one that took us to the playoffs in '12? Gave us a pretty good team in '13, a competitive team at least. ... We're going to have to have somebody hit 56 home runs between the two of them, whatever it was, and 170 RBIs. Somebody's going to have to pick it up. If they need me, I've done it before. Give me a bat, see what happens."

Tillman, a California native, plans to remain in Florida until spring training to prepare for the season. He wanted to throw Monday but was told not to by pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. Hunter likely won't start throwing for another two weeks since he pitched for a team of major leaguers that played in Japan in November.


"I saw Dom and Dave, and they said hold back," Tillman said. "I've always been early to the point where we throw in California, and get ready, we build up, and then we come out here, and we're only allowed to throw three or five minutes. You feel like you're way ahead, and you feel like you have to step back and get over the hump again. It's just something you learn. I feel like I'm late starting today, but they said, wait it out. We'll sit down, kind of plan it out and go from there."

Said Hunter: "I think I started a little bit too early last year, and we'll tone it down. Japan kind of set me back a little bit. I think a couple more weeks, I'm going to start getting ready. It's not going to take long."