NEW YORK — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman will make at least one more minor league rehabilitation start before returning from the disabled list, starting for Triple-A Norfolk at Charlotte on Tuesday.
After Tillman's third rehab start Thursday for High-A Frederick, the club considered activating him from the DL to make his Orioles regular-season debut Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. But the team ultimately decided he could benefit from another outing in the minors.
"I just think the whole experience [will be good]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a very hitter-friendly park. They have a lot of left-handed hitters. … Physically, one more start and I think he should be fine."
Tillman allowed six runs (four earned) over five innings in his most recent rehab start pitching for the Keys at Potomac on Thursday. His fastball sat a few ticks down at 87-88 mph, but he emerged from that start saying he believed he was ready to return. The next morning, he traveled to New York to meet the team to discuss his next step.
"If you're waiting for guys on rehab to pitch shutouts and throw 100 miles an hour, it's just not going to happen," Showalter said. "I can never remember one where they called back and said, 'Wow, take this guy. He's so much better than this level.' It's just not going to happen."
He will face his highest level of competition Tuesday after making two starts for Double-A Bowie before pitching for Frederick. That played a role in getting Tillman one more minor league start.
"It's so easy to get in and out of there, and I think talking to Chris, it's the best competition, the best facility," Showalter said. "So it will be good for him. You know, if you're waiting around for someone to pitch a shutout or strike out the side as a relief pitcher, they don't happen on rehabs. It's more about how they feel physically and their command."
In his most recent rehab start, Tillman was hurt by poor defense. Additionally, facing eager-to-swing minor league hitters didn't allow him to attack hitters as he normally would. The Orioles hope pitching in a Triple-A game will give him that opportunity.
"Chris and I were talking yesterday before the game about pitch sequences and stuff for those hitters at the lower levels a lot of times is tougher than any of them," Showalter said. "He was telling me he threw a curveball strike, a changeup in the dirt, the guy swung and missed, and then he went high fastball, the guy took like he knew it was coming, and he threw one higher than high and he tomahawked it out of the ballpark. And he's on the mound going, 'What?'"
Britton back to Bowie
Closer Zach Britton, who was unable to get through a full inning in his first rehab outing Friday at Bowie, will make an additional appearance at Bowie on Sunday and could be activated and available for Tuesday's game in Boston.
Britton needed 28 pitches to get two outs Friday, allowing a homer and walking two. Showalter said Britton told him he felt rusty in the outing.
"Hopefully another outing will knock some of that rust off," Showalter said. "Physically, it felt good. All the velocities will tick up when they come up here. He said actually the ball was moving too much. He was running the sinker too much. Actually, he was missing up some. We'll see what happens next time out."
Starters up in the air for Boston
Showalter said the starting pitchers for the Orioles' first two games in Boston on Monday and Tuesday aren't definitive.
The club considered giving right-hander Dylan Bundy an extra day of rest, but he is still scheduled to start Monday on regular rest. Tuesday's starter is still to be determined.
"I feel pretty confident that Dylan will start Monday, but that could change," Showalter said. "Was talking to him yesterday and he felt really good on his work day. He didn't have any problems. He had a little trouble getting loose his last outing until the third inning, but he felt good after that. Said he felt a lot better with this work day than he did the last one."
Tillman was considered for Tuesday. But now that he's making another rehab start, right-hander Alec Asher is the leading contender to start that game provided he isn't used in long relief Sunday. Aquino was another candidate, but he has pitched on back-to-back days, combining to throw 61 pitches over those two outings. Aquino had a quality start (two earned runs in six innings) against the Boston Red Sox on April 22 at Camden Yards.
Castillo catching Miley on Sunday
After catching 10 innings on Friday night, Showalter gave starter Welington Castillo the afternoon off Saturday, paring Caleb Joseph with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.
The move also means that Castillo and not Joseph will catch left-hander Wade Miley on Sunday. Joseph caught Miley's first four starts of the season and the left-hander owns a 2.08 ERA over that span.
"You know he's a good catcher, and nobody knows that more than Wade Miley," Showalter said of Castillo. "There are going to be some days where Caleb's not available. … That's a dangerous thing to get into because all of a sudden something happens physically. We have two good catchers potentially and we're lucky to have them. I'm not going to do that to him. If he had a real easy, fresh game last night, I might have considered it for today. But he got real beat up last night. It's just bad business."
While Showalter has said he's not giving any pitcher a personal catcher, the crux behind the decision — besides giving Castillo rest — was to have Castillo in the lineup Sunday against New York Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery.
"Very quietly over the last year or two, he's one of the [leading hitters] against left-handed pitching," Showalter said. "I want to get him in the lineup for Sunday. He caught 10 innings last night and about 2,000 pitches and physically he's beat up."
Over the course of his career, Castillo is a .286/.350/.484 hitter against lefties. But this year, he's putting up better numbers against right-handers (.316/.350/.421).
Castillo's first homer of the season came Friday night against left-hander CC Sabathia.
Around the horn
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop extended his on-base streak to 16 games. Third baseman Manny Machado has reached base in 10 straight games. ... Center fielder Adam Jones had his second straight multihit game Saturday and his sixth this season. ... Designated hitter Mark Trumbo's sixth-inning grand slam Friday gave him 16 career homers against the Yankees in 50 games, which is tied with Tino Martinez and Mo Vaughn for the fifth-most home runs over a player's first 50 games against the Yankees. Only Albert Belle, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Canseco and Fred Whitfield hit more (each with 18) in their first 50 games against the Yankees.