Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard talks about making his first major league team and the excitement of Opening Day at Camden Yards. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles are counting on a bounce-back season from right-hander Chris Tillman, and he'll have the opportunity to start the year on the right foot when he makes his third straight Opening Day start Monday against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards.
Tillman was the Orioles' top starter in 2013 and '14, posting a 29-13 record and 3.52 ERA over those two seasons. But last year, his ERA ballooned to 4.99 and he went 11-11.
This spring training, Tillman posted a 7.24 ERA but was strong in his final outing, holding the Detroit Tigers to just one run and four hits.
"Knowing him the way we know him know, there's a little bit of an attitude as far as, I think he wants to have a really good year," pitching coach Dave Wallace said during a workout Sunday at Camden Yards. "He came in ready to go. I think he had a really good spring. I don't care about the stats. He threw the ball really well. … I'm looking forward to him having a real good game tomorrow and helping us win the ballgame. That's what Chris does well. He's a tremendous competitor."
Tillman said the biggest thing he can take out of spring training is that it's now over. Before Tillman starts talking about the way last season ended for him, he wants to make sure it doesn't appear as though he's making excuses about a left ankle injury that nagged him through the season's final two months.
After injuring his ankle at the end of a July 29 start against the Atlanta Braves — an 8 2/3-shuotut-innings outing that was one of his best starts of the year — he ended the season with a 6.22 ERA over his final 11 starts.
"I think it started physical," Tillman said. "I'm by no means making excuses, because I was more than frustrated by that happening, because it was kind of a freak thing. I wasn't being lazy, and then something happened. We were doing the right things, and it just happened. I rolled my ankle and I think it started physically, and then I think it just started creating bad habits because I wanted to be out there every fifth day, and I think that's part of the learning curve."
After rolling his ankle, Tillman's next start was pushed back, and he skipped his next after that, but he never went on the disabled list for the injury.
"Sometimes you have to have to back off it a little but [also try] to get better and help your team the way you know you can," Tillman said. "I think I got pushed back once or twice. I think it started physical. It wasn't comfortable by any means. I think it just created bad habits mechanically. You can do all you want to, effort-wise, but if you're not there, then you're fighting an uphill battle.
"I think mechanically, I was good enough to get through games. I just wasn't executing. And it's about executing, and when you have those things going against you, it's tough. That being said, that's everyone in the big leagues. Everyone has something going on at the same time, so that's not me. That's everyone."
Worley makes team: Right-hander Vance Worley arrived at Sunday's workout still not knowing whether he had made the team's 25-man roster, but when he showed up at the Orioles clubhouse for the first time and everything was in his locker, he had a good feeling.
"I said [to myself]: 'OK, that's a good start,' " Worley said.
Worley soon was called into manager Buck Showalter's office and told he had made the team. Worley and right-hander Tyler Wilson will be available out of the bullpen for the first two games of the season, after which one of them will be selected to start Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the first time the Orioles will need a fifth starter.
"When I get the ball, I'll just take it and go," Worley said. "That's all I know right now."
Worley, who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason and posted a 4.32 ERA in 16 2/3 spring training innings, felt he pitched well enough to make the club but didn't want to assume anything.
"Not in this game," Worley said. "I've been the guy on the bubble the last few years, and really, spring training isn't what it used to be, where you could really go into camp and work your way into baseball shape. You have to show you're ready to go to win a job."