DUNEDIN, FLA. — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman will make his 2018 Grapefruit League debut Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, which means he is not projected to start against them during the season-opening series at Camden Yards.
Manager Buck Showalter confirmed both the timing and the significance of it Friday. He has been weighing where to place Tillman in the rotation and apparently will match him up against the defending world champion Houston Astros during the Orioles’ first road series.
Tillman has been working in simulated games to steer him away from the club’s division rivals. He threw 61 pitches Thursday and said early Friday that he anticipated throwing in at least one more sim game before getting into the exhibition rotation.
Of course, all that was dependent on how Showalter decided to line up the rotation, which he apparently has done. He has not, however, named an Opening Day starter and probably won’t for a while.
That’s not easy to project because of the continuing competition for the fifth-starter job, but the way it lines up at the moment would suggest Kevin Gausman would start on Opening Day, followed by Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy at Camden Yards. Gausman got the honor last year, but Bundy was the club’s winningest and most consistent pitcher over the course of the season.
So, who knows? A lot could happen between now and then, and for that matter, Showalter might not be married to the current order.
Earlier Friday, Tillman said Thursday’s outing went “pretty well.”
“I’ve got some work to do out of the stretch, but other than that, for the most part, everything was good,” Tillman said. “I felt like all my pitches were there. It was my first day throwing my cutter/slider. I wasn’t expecting that much out of that pitch, but I got to 60 [pitches]. The goal was 45, but I got to 60 and that was good.”
It’s not the first time Tillman has pitched in sim games and “B” games to stay away from division rivals and early-season opponents, so he said he’s not concerned about it affecting his preparation.
“It all depends on the guy,” he said. “You can get away from yourself in a game if you really focus on doing a certain thing. I think it’s good. I think sim games are real good.
“I remember throwing in a lot of sim games two years ago and even prior to that, to tell the truth. Maybe not this many, but I definitely did have some ‘A’ games and I will have some — two or three of them. I’m not worried. I’ve just got to get a few. As long as the hitters are giving me a read and telling me what they see.”
Showalter said Friday that he also occasionally flips the script when it comes to hiding some pitchers from the teams the Orioles will play early in the season. He also tries occasionally to match Orioles hitters against pitchers he anticipates they will face early on.
He did that Friday with left fielder Trey Mancini, who welcomed the trip to Dunedin because he wanted to get a look at Toronto Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada.
“This year I’ve done it more than I have in the past with the pitchers,” Showalter said. “One, we didn’t quite have the pitchers to do it with, so we weren’t losing or gaining anything. But this year, it’s a little bit more. But the hitters, we kind of go in the other direction. If I see somebody that I want them to see, we’ll take them. That was part of the idea for with Trey.”