As Mets designate Matt Harvey, Orioles not yet at that point with struggling Chris Tillman

Matt Harvey and Chris Tillman have little in common other than their concurrent appearances as All-Stars in 2013, and now, possibly, their arrival at the point of no return for the clubs whose rotations they anchored for seasons since then.

Harvey's fall from his status as one of the best pitchers in baseball hit new depths Friday when the New York Mets designated him for assignment, the culmination of a difficult stretch for one of the game's brightest stars.


The night before, Tillman had one of the worst starts he's made in a year full of forgettable ones, and manager Buck Showalter on Friday spoke around the right-hander's immediate future — something the manager has become skilled at because of the the team's starting pitching woes in recent seasons.

Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop went through a normal routine on Friday at Prince George's Stadium as he prepares to return from an oblique injury.

"Things were lined up well for Chris yesterday, coming off a really good outing and pitching in a place where he's pitched real well, and it didn't work out. There's concern there," Showalter said. "We're trying to put our best foot forward, and we'll continue to look at it. We know Chris is capable of better. He just hasn't been very consistent, but we'll see what next week brings. Right now, we're trying to play better here against Oakland."

Tillman didn't record an out in the second inning of Thursday's 12-3 thumping at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels, leaving with seven earned runs on seven hits and a walk, elevating his ERA to 9.24 this season. Save for his seven scoreless innings April 27, he's allowed four or more runs each time out this season.

Since he made his 2017 debut after having his spring cut short because of shoulder soreness last May 5 — a full year ago Saturday — Tillman has made 30 appearances (25 starts), pitching 118 1/3 innings with an 8.14 ERA and a 1.927 WHIP.

Tillman, 30, is one of 156 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched since the start of 2017. None have a higher ERA. Then comes erstwhile Orioles starter Ubaldo Jiménez, who didn't sign anywhere for 2018, and then comes Harvey at 6.77.

A shoulder injury was presumably the culprit for Harvey, too, with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that creates compression and tightness on the underside of the shoulder requiring surgery. He was moved to the bullpen in mid-April — just as Tillman was last August, with his first relief appearance coming in Oakland.

Of the two pitchers who come behind Tillman on that list of inflated ERAs, the Orioles seem to be treating him more like Jiménez than Harvey. Despite only sporadic success, Jiménez saw out the entirety of his four-year, $50 million contract that ended last season. The prospect of dead money on their books and him figuring it out elsewhere meant they never moved on, instead only moving him from the rotation to the bullpen and back again.

Tillman, on a $3 million deal this season, doesn't have the same financial impact as Jiménez did. But his status as a mentor to the club's young pitchers and his diligence to figure out what has gone wrong this past year is working in his favor. How can Tillman face a worse fate than Jiménez?


Perhaps the Mets couldn't afford to wait it out any longer. Public comments from club executive Sandy Alderson made it seem like it was a difficult decision, one the club didn't come to easily.

Orioles prospect Zac Lowther was named the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Month for a stellar April when he struck out 39 batters and allowed three runs in four starts.

Tillman won't even allow himself to live in a world where such a decision is a possibility for him. He spent the early afternoon Friday in Oakland sitting in front of a laptop with teammate Alex Cobb, breaking down film. His conversation with Showalter upon arriving at the park Friday was short.

"He just said, 'Hi,' " Tillman said. "I mean, if I start worrying about that stuff, I'm getting pretty far away from working on what I need to to get ready. I've got a goal in mind, and if I start worrying about every other thing, I'm not going to get there."

There were no indications that he won't get another chance to do that on the major league mound. Even if the Orioles have him skip a start at the expense of getting the rest of their rotation a built-in day off with Monday's scheduled travel day, they'll need a fifth starter next Saturday. So Tillman will set back on the path to finding the prior form the Orioles are keeping him around hoping he'll rediscover.

"I mean, if I knew, I'd have fixed it," Tillman said. "I think you get different things from different catchers, different pitchers, different coaches. I think it's multiple things. If it was one thing, it'd be much better by now. It's just bad habits I've got to break, I think, [like] my direction to the plate. I think that's a big part of it."