Tillman Might Be On Cusp Of Major Leagues



Triple-a Pitcher Appears To Be Next In Line For Bigs

July 04, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. - -In an ideal world, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail would introduce the organization's top pitching prospects to the major leagues at different points of the season. However, with four of the five members of his Opening Day rotation no longer part of the starting staff because of injuries or ineffectiveness, he has been left with little choice.

Rookies Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez are already part of the rotation, and Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Chris Tillman, 21, appears to be the next man up if another injury occurs or the struggles of Berken or Rich Hill persist. Tillman threw 7 2/3 shutout innings Friday, striking out seven and allowing just four hits and a walk. He improved to 6-5 with a 2.69 ERA.

"I've always said, you want to make sure when they get here, they have a reasonable chance to succeed, but sometimes events dictate what happens," said MacPhail, not speaking specifically about Tillman. "Things don't always go as planned. Things change. We have to go with events and make the best decisions that we can in the context of the current times."

MacPhail said he is not looking for the current rotation to change, but if it does, he would prefer summoning one of the Orioles' prospects rather than calling on a well-traveled veteran. The Orioles' Opening Day rotation included Koji Uehara, Adam Eaton, Alfredo Simon and Mark Hendrickson, joining holdover Jeremy Guthrie. But Guthrie is the only one who remains. Eaton was released, Simon is out for the season after having Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery and Uehara is out until at least September with a partially torn tendon in his pitching elbow. Hendrickson is currently in the bullpen.

"We had our share [of turnover] already, but we've been able to fill in with guys like Bergesen and Berken and Hernandez as opposed to going down and getting veteran guys who are kicking around," MacPhail said. "Frankly, we had our [veterans] at the beginning just to give us some time to help us make the right decision with the minor league guys. I'm hopeful we have enough young candidates down below where we won't have to resort to guys that are clearly in the twilight of their careers."

Izturis getting closer

Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis, who hasn't played since June 3 after having an appendectomy, took live batting practice before Friday's game and is only a couple of days from going out on a rehabilitation assignment. While it once appeared that Izturis might be out until late July, it's now looking as if he'll return for next weekend's home series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles' last before the All-Star break.

"It would appear that there is a very good possibility that he might be able to be activated for the Toronto series before the break," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That's what we're shooting for, that's what he's shooting for."

Reimold honored

Outfielder Nolan Reimold was voted the American League Rookie of the Month for June, beating out Bergesen and becoming the first Oriole to win the award since Nick Markakis did it in August 2006.

"It's pretty nice," said Reimold, who was called into Trembley's office, where he was given the news. "I didn't even know they had that. It caught me completely off guard."

Reimold, 25, hit .320 (24-for-75) in 26 June games to go along with four home runs, nine RBIs, 13 runs and 13 walks. He had a .520 slugging percentage, a .420 on-base percentage and six multi-hit games. The Orioles left fielder reached base safely in 30 of 72 plate appearances from June 9 to Tuesday.

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