Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman reported an improvement in his ailing right shoulder Tuesday morning, manager Buck Showalter said, and the team still maintains cautious optimism that he can resume throwing in the next few days.
After Tillman ended his third bullpen session prematurely this past weekend following just 10 throws, the next step the Orioles take with him remains unclear. But if they gain more clarity that his lingering problems are stemming from an antibiotic he took that can cause joint soreness, he could return to the mound quickly; however, not likely before Wednesday.
Showalter said the team will discuss the proper path for Tillman after Tuesday's game.
"Yesterday was better than the day before and today was better than yesterday," Showalter said. "… I talked to [head trainer Richie Bancells], and the doctors to see if he wanted to throw again. It's going to be a conversation at the end of the day as far as what we want to do tomorrow. So I'm hoping that he might get back on the mound again, but we'll see."
If Tillman returns to a mound soon and has no further setbacks, he likely wouldn't be ready until late April at the earliest.
But if his soreness continues to be a problem, he could receive a cortisone injection to quell the discomfort while still putting him on pace to return in early May.
"He's very frank about it," Showalter said. "… When he started and made us aware of it in the offseason, he knows what's at stake for our team where Chris is concerned and for Chris's career. When he brings something up, you need to pay some attention to it. He's a tough post-up guy. Pretty much every pitcher pitches through things over the course of the season, so I think Chris was hoping to take care of this in the spring. It may get delayed, but I think eventually he's going to be pitching for us."
Tillman, who is set to enter free agency after this season, has been the Orioles' most reliable starter over the past four seasons, averaging 14 wins, 32 starts and 190 innings over that span.
Flaherty shut down
Orioles utility man Ryan Flaherty, who has been a frequent starter at third base this spring with Manny Machado at the World Baseball Classic, received a cortisone injection after Monday's game for lingering shoulder soreness and will be unavailable for the next two or three days, Showalter said.
"He keeps having this nagging achy shoulder from probably overuse," Showalter said. "... He was injected yesterday. We're trying to clear that up."
Flaherty played in 10 of the Orioles' first 17 Grapefruit League games this spring, not including the team's exhibition against the Dominican Republic WBC team.
"He wanted to keep playing and play through it, but [we're] just trying to not let that [turn] into something [worse]," Showalter said. "I can't remember the last time we had an old-fashioned sore arm."
No lefty for Kim
Showalter decided against giving outfielder Hyun Soo Kim some at-bats against a left-handed starter in the Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell on Tuesday, saying he wanted to get a look at other outfielders while giving Kim a day off.
"I think Kim is leading our team in plate appearances right now," Showalter said. "He's seen a bunch of them out of the bullpen. He's seen plenty of at-bats. I actually wanted to give him a day. He's been out there a lot. I'm more interested in getting a look at [Trey] Mancini and [Joey] Rickard and [Craig] Gentry.
Kim leads the Orioles with 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.
The Orioles have made it clear they want to see how Kim fares against left-handers this spring. But he has just three plate appearances against lefties, and his one hit came in the team's exhibition against the Dominican WBC team.
He is 11-for-35 (.314) against right-handers this spring.