Tillman Expected To Start Wednesday

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Orioles Notebook

Pitcher, 21, To Make His Big League Debut Vs. Royals

July 26, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

BOSTON - -The wait for Chris Tillman is all but over.

Tillman, the 21-year-old right-hander who is the Orioles' top pitching prospect, will be called up to make his major league debut Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley didn't officially announce Tillman as Wednesday's pitcher, but he said the club will call up somebody from the minors to make that start and who it is won't come as a surprise. It has been speculated for weeks that the major league debut of Tillman, who is 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk, is imminent.

"It should be fun," Trembley said.

Rich Hill will start in Monday's series opener against the Royals, followed by Jason Berken on Tuesday, and then Tillman, whose counterpart will be Zach Greinke, the major league ERA leader. It's expected that either Hill or Berken will be demoted to accommodate Tillman. The Orioles won't have to make that move until Wednesday.

In slotting Tillman where the Orioles did, it allows rookies Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez, along with Jeremy Guthrie, to get an extra day of rest before their next start.

"The guy I'm going to try to do that for is Bergesen, and I'm going to try to do that for Hernandez because those guys got to pitch in September for us and they have not done that," Trembley said. "This is their first full season in the big leagues. I'm going to make sure that we do everything that we can to keep those guys 100 percent healthy."

Trembley said the Orioles have no plans to go with a six-man rotation, and he expects Wednesday's starter to remain with the club. Tillman was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Bedard deal in February 2008. Armed with a good fastball and a buckling curveball, Tillman dominated at Double-A Bowie last season, going 11-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 starts and striking out 154 batters in 135 2/3 innings.

This season, he has been equally effective at Triple-A, striking out 99 in 96 2/3 innings and holding the opposition to a .232 average. Though he struggled in his last outing, allowing four earned runs on six hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings, he had surrendered just one run total in his previous three outings spanning 20 1/3 innings and started in the prestigious Futures Game.

Huff plays on

Never one to mince words, Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff summed up his current struggles in a way only he can.

"I just feel like a piece of [garbage] up there right now. That's what I feel like," Huff said, managing a slight grin. "When I do things right, nothing is falling. It's been one of those years where I take a good at-bat up there and I barrel the ball up, and for the most part, it's been an out. It's like the anti-last year. Mentally, it's pretty damn taxing right now. It's probably one of the worst stretches I've been through. It's getting pretty old."

Huff, who acknowledged that his slump has gone to his head, went 0-for-4 in the Orioles' loss to the Red Sox on Friday. He entered Saturday's game in a 1-for-16 slump that lowered his average to .251, the worst it has been since April 12. He's hitting just .155 in July, has RBIs in just three of his past 19 games and has just three home runs since May 26.

Might want to stop

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has 41 outfield assists since the start of the 2007 season, tying former Atlanta Braves and current New York Mets' right fielder Jeff Francoeur for the most in the majors during that time. Markakis led the big leagues with 17 outfield assists last season, and his 11 this year are also tops in the league.

Yet teams continue to challenge his arm with Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury becoming the latest to find out why it's not a good idea. In Friday's loss, Markakis, helped by catcher Matt Wieters, who did a superb job blocking the plate, cut down Ellsbury trying to score on Dustin Pedroia's single. It was his third outfield assist in the past six games.

"He's probably one of the most accurate guys that I've ever seen," Trembley said.

Around the horn

Relievers Dennis Sarfate and Chris Ray turned in scoreless one-inning rehabilitation outings on Friday with Sarfate striking out one and walking one for Norfolk and Ray striking out two for Bowie. ... Orioles outfielder Felix Pie will be in the lineup today.

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