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Orioles name Chris Tillman as Opening Day starter

SARASOTA, Fla. ¿ Right-hander Chris Tillman will be the Orioles¿ Opening Day starter for the third consecutive year, manager Buck Showalter announced on Monday.

SARASOTA, Fla. – Right-hander Chris Tillman will be the Orioles' Opening Day starter for the third consecutive year, manager Buck Showalter announced Monday.

Tillman will become the first Orioles pitcher to start three straight season openers since Mike Mussina in 1998-2000. Both Rodrigo Lopez and Jeremy Guthrie made three Opening Day starts with the Orioles since then, but they didn't come in consecutive years.

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"It says something about his dependability from a post-up standpoint," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Chris has been a durable performer. … It's probably as good a physical spring as he's had since he's been here."

Tillman, whose first spring start was delayed by hip flexor tightness and who has a 9.31 ERA in Grapefruit League play, is looking to rebound from a rocky 2015 season.

He went 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 31 starts last year.  Before that, Tillman posted back-to-back 200-innings seasons in 2013 and '14, going a combined 29-13 with a 3.52 ERA.

Including Tillman, the Orioles' rotation has three pitchers who have made Opening Day starts. Newcomer Yovani Gallardo made five straight Opening Day starts for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2010 to '14. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez started back-to-back openers for the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and '11.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he considered all three for the nod, and added that Gallardo would have been a strong consideration had he not signed late.

"It's just kind of where they all are," Showalter said. "They've all had some experience at it. They've all had some success at it, I guess."

Showalter played down the importance of the Opening Day starter tag. He said that choosing Tillman also had to do with matchups down the road.

"Every guy is our Opening Day starter," Showalter said. "We better look at it that way. … [Tillman has] been with us a while and he knows all the things that go along with it, but so do Yovani and Ubaldo."

With right-hander Kevin Gausman starting the year on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis – Showalter is still optimistic he will return when the Orioles need a fifth starter April 10 -- and a spring competition for the final rotation spot, Showalter was able to keep all three pitchers in turn.

Showalter said the final decision on naming Tillman the Opening Day starter was made Sunday, when the Orioles had to start making decisions on how the rotation will shake out.

"We've been talking about it back and forth," Showalter said. "You always come back to it, but you let it play out. You end up spending a lot of brainpower on things that will reveal itself to you. You keep letting it come to you. You keep putting it out there and taking in the things that are created and seeing where guys are physically.

Gallardo and Jimenez are coming off their worse spring training outings of the season.

"There's a lot of things we know that other people don't in where guys are with things," Showalter said. "I think if Yovani had been with us from the first day, he might have been a little more of a factor. It's not that he's behind, but didn't want that added on him. It also gives him an extra start."

eencina@baltsun.com
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