FORT MYERS, FLA. — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman has a bullpen session scheduled for Saturday that manager Buck Showalter believes will be pivotal to the team's top starter remaining on track to return from his shoulder injury in early April.
"Basically, If you look at his schedule, he can't really miss one," Showalter said of the carefully orchestrated path that would have Tillman, who hasn't pitched in a game all spring after shoulder discomfort from a season ago cropped up again, return in time for the first trip through the rotation in April.
"If he does something tomorrow that alters his schedule, then everything kind of changes. So, I guess you could say tomorrow is one that would put him back into the flow with everybody else. If he misses it, we'll really kind of find out where he really is on this. With all the throwing he's had off the full mound, if he's going to have an issue, I think it's going to happen tomorrow."
Tillman has had two full-mound sessions so far, the most recent came Wednesday alongside closer Zach Britton (side soreness). Showalter said both of those were high-intensity and went well, and Britton had another bullpen session Friday. If Britton's next throw day doesn't come in a game, Showalter said there would only be one more side session left.
For Tillman, however, the plan was to get him into a simulated game on March 14 before he returned to Grapefruit League action on March 17.
Last year, he dealt with shoulder bursitis in August, but came back for September and started the team's wild-card game in Toronto. Even if there's no setbacks in his recovery, Tillman will not start on Opening Day this season for the first time in four years.
Around the horn
Left-hander Richard Bleier probably won't leave the team to pitch for Israel in the World Baseball Classic, according to Showalter, but the decision is up to him. … Chris Davis is dealing with bronchitis and probably won't be in the lineup for a day or two. … Mike Wright will face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium. Kevin Gausman will start Sunday when the Orioles return to Fort Myers to face the Minnesota Twins.