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Plenty of positives despite costly mistakes for Chris Tillman in longest spring outing

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman rued a pair of mistakes that the Tampa Bay Rays hit out of  Ed Smith Stadium, but otherwise felt great about his longest spring training outing of the season Sunday.

"It was good," Tillman said. "I made a lot of good pitches last start, and made a lot of good pitches this start. It's the mistakes I've got to cut down on. I made a couple today, but I'm looking at the positives. I made a lot of good pitches with all my pitches, and it's exciting."

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Tillman's Grapefruit League slate got off to a late start because of a hip issue that delayed his debut until last Thursday in a "B" game. After two innings in that game on March 10 and 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday at Toronto, he completed four innings Sunday, striking out five and allowing three runs on five hits, including two home runs.

Tillman had worked around a first inning double to retire the Rays quietly in that frame, then struck out two in the second inning, but back-to-back, two-out home runs by Rays designated hitter Logan Morrison and third baseman Evan Longoria spoiled what was otherwise a strong outing.

Those home runs were part of an onslaught of five home runs between the two teams in the first five innings, thanks in part to a steady breeze flying out to left-center field. The Morrison home run was long gone to center field regardless of the wind, while Longoria's barely cleared the left-center fence.

Tillman didn't chalk their landing spots up to the wind, though.

"Those were mistakes and deserved to get hit," he said. "It is what it is. Our guys hit some too. It goes both ways."

In his last start against Toronto, Tillman left with the bases loaded and two outs, having already allowed two runs on five hits and three walks at that point. He said at the time tha this breaking ball was farther along than it usually is, and manager Buck Showalter said his arm strength was also better than it typically is in March.

Tillman said he could have thrown longer in the bullpen after making 66 pitches through four innings, but he "felt good about where I was at, and I think I accomplished what I need to, so I decided not to do that."

On the breaking ball, Tillman was similarly optimistic.

"It really was [better]," he said. "I made some good pitches with it and some bad. I think that's the nature of the game. You live and die by it. It was a good pitch for me throughout today other than a couple. It's encouraging."

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