Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman faced live hitters for the first time Saturday morning, throwing 25-30 pitches in live batting practice at the team’s spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he remains cautiously optimistic with Tillman, who was previously shut down before getting to this point in his recovery last month. Tillman then received a cortisone injection before he was able to resume throwing.
“I don’t know if you’re ever going to feel like there’s a point with Chris is completely [like], ‘OK, he’s done that, so everything’s fine,’" Showalter said. “Each time he takes a work day and each time he throws, you – not wonder – but you’re anxious to see how the feels the next day. I would really like to keep him in that environment as little as possible. I’m hoping after this two-inning stint, we can get him back in this environment.”
Tillman’s next step in his recovery from shoulder soreness will be throwing a two-inning extended spring game Tuesday, and Showalter said he hoped Tillman would be able to continue his rehabilitation with a major league affiliate after that, likely with Double-A Bowie.
“He’s going to have to get built up,” Showalter said. “We had a [radar] gun and we filmed it today. I’m not going to broadcast that, but he’s not where he’s gonna be or needs to be. So that’s expected, especially at 10 o’clock in the morning with not a whole lot [going on]. You've got to really be pushing in intensity level. You throw two innings there and hopefully his next outing is planning to be in a club.”
Showalter said the club hopes to keep Tillman close when he begins pitching in minor league games, so he can work out in Baltimore between outings.
Britton back in action after ankle scare
In converting his third save of the season in Saturday’s 5-4 comeback win over the New York Yankees, closer Zach Britton showed no lasting effects of rolling his right ankle the previous night.
Britton tossed a scoreless ninth Saturday, overcoming a two-out single to Matt Holliday. He also survived a scare when Chris Carter sent a fly ball to the center-field warning track before Adam Jones caught it for the final out of the game.
Having days off Tuesday and Thursday has allowed Showalter to pitch Britton in all four games.
“It's important to get relief pitchers into a routine,” Showalter said. “I don't think anybody here is expecting Zach to duplicate his historic year. ... He's off to a good start.”
With his 52nd straight converted save attempt, Britton moved into a third-place tie with Jeurys Familia for third on the all-time consecutive save list.
Britton shrugged off the injury before Saturday’s game, calling the visit he received from trainer Richie Bancells, Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell a "courtesy visit."
"I told Buck, ‘I appreciate the courtesy visit, but I’m fine,’" Britton deadpanned.
Britton said the injury occurred when he fell after being distracted by a shard that flew off the end of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez's bat and went to his right.
"I glanced at it and pretty much juked myself out and rolled my ankle," Britton said.
Despite falling, Britton still made the play. But he said he received plenty of ribbing from teammates about his awkward fall.
"Absolutely, but I got the video clip deleted, so we’ll never see that one again," Britton said.
The Orioles must make a 25-man roster move before Sunday’s game to activate left-hander Wade Miley to start the series finale against the Yankees.
It’s the first of two upcoming moves that will likely force the Orioles to move toward a more conventional roster after opening the season with an extra bench player and eight relievers because of early days off. The Orioles must also add a fifth starter for the April 15 road game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It’s something that Dan [Duquette] and I have been talking about the past couple of days,” Showalter said. “But it’s going to come to pass tomorrow. Obviously, we’ve got eight guys in the 'pen and we also have an extra guy on the bench. That comes with three starters. And then on [April 15], barring bad weather, we’re going to have to make another move. So at some point, we’re going to have to get back to a conventional roster. There is a way to keep it. It just takes a lot of constant maneuvering.”
Both long relievers – right-hander Tyler Wilson and left-hander Vidal Nuno – can be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, as could rookie right fielder Trey Mancini.
“We’re trying to win the game, and how it falls after that, Roger and I sat down today about our bullpen, where we are with it and we’ll sit down again after batting practice, see what feedback we’re getting,” Showalter said. “… If you’re saying the guy who is going to be turned loose or sent down, are we going to abuse the heck out of him so we know who he is today? No. We’re not going to abuse anybody. But we’ve got some good pieces we’d like to hold on to.”
As for who will fill the rotation hole Saturday, Showalter said left-hander Jayson Aquino, who starts Sunday for Norfolk, and right-hander Alec Asher, the Tides' projected starter Monday, and right-handers Gabriel Ynoa and Mike Wright, who started the past two nights for Norfolk are all “in the mix.”
Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander, who opened the season on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, now has no restrictions to swing a bat.
Santander will need to be on the 25-man active roster for 90 days in order to fulfill his Rule 5 qualifications.
Meanwhile, the team's other Rule 5 pick, outfielder Aneury Tavarez, was returned to the Boston Red Sox and homered in his opener with Double-A Portland on Friday.
Around the horn
Cody Sedlock, the Orioles’ 2016 first-round draft pick, allowed two hits in six scoreless innings in his season debut with High-A Frederick on Saturday. ... Former Villanova basketball players Phil Booth (Mount Saint Joseph) and Kris Jenkins threw out ceremonial first pitches Saturday.