A Rookie Outing

Tillman Shows Promise, But Gives Up 3 Hrs In O's Win

July 30, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Chris Tillman's night began with a torrential downpour that delayed his first major league pitch, and it ended with a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd. The reason for the reception was more about what Tillman might bring to the Orioles in the future and not what he was able to deliver Wednesday night.

Tillman, the 21-year-old right-hander, got a rocky introduction to the major leagues, alllowing three solo homers and lasting just 4 2/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals. But the night was not without glimpses of the promise that made Tillman the organization's most prized pitching prospect, and has fans so excited about the days ahead. And it was also not without a much-needed win for the home team, which finally found some elusive hits with runners in scoring position.

With Royals ace Zack Greinke out of the game because of an inflated pitch count, the Orioles finally did damage against the Royals' bullpen, scoring three times in the seventh and twice more in the eighth for a 7-3 victory in front of an announced 19,741 at Camden Yards.

Tillman, who became the fourth-youngest Oriole pitcher to make his major league debut since 1969, allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk, while striking out two before leaving to the rousing ovation.

"That was pretty special," said Tillman, who was acquired last February from the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Bedard deal. "It feels good. I've heard a lot about these fans here. ... I was kind of disappointed at the time with the way the game turned out. Obviously, it was the first time I've had an ovation like that. Other than that, I really [didn't] know what to think."

All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, also acquired in the Bedard deal - which is looking better every day - hit a two-run homer in the first off Greinke, the third straight game he has connected for a first-inning homer. Jones tied the score in the seventh with an RBI double off the scoreboard in right. Nick Markakis followed with a go-ahead two-run single, and he and Aubrey Huff added RBI hits in the eighth.

Matt Albers relieved Tillman and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, and Jim Johnson closed it out with two scoreless innings, completing a perfect night for the Orioles' bullpen. It was just the Orioles' third win in 12 games since the All-Star break, and it allows them to go for the series split this afternoon behind rookie Brad Bergesen.

But the ramifications were even bigger for Tillman, who fought nerves and a slippery mound, which left him uneasy throwing his patented curveball. Still, he made an impression on his teammates.

"Based on what I saw tonight, as far as his stuff, his poise, his mound presence, he should be here," catcher Gregg Zaun said. "He really should. There's nobody in Triple-A that's going to help his development. He needs to be here facing major league hitters."

It was an interesting start for Tillman, who was 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk when he earned his promotion. Tillman was greeted to a nice ovation as he jogged to the mound. However, he was forced to head back to the dugout without throwing a pitch when the skies opened up just after the national anthem.

"If I was in Norfolk, the game would have been banged already," Tillman said. "But the guys told me to stay ready and mentally prepared."

After a 41-minute rain delay, Tillman finally threw his first pitch - a 92 mph fastball that was called a strike by home plate umpire Wally Bell - at 7:47 p.m. The right-hander had a perfect first inning, though the Royals hit three balls hard.

But in the second, Albert Callapso hammered Tillman's 3-2 fastball onto the flag court in right field for a solo homer. Two batters later, Miguel Olivo drove a high fastball a couple of rows up into the left-field seats to tie the score at 2.

The score stayed that way until the fourth inning, when Mike Jacobs smacked Tillman's hanging curveball onto the flag court to give the Royals' a 3-2 lead. Tillman hadn't given up more than one home run in any of his 18 starts for Triple-A Norfolk this season. He had already given up three in the first four innings in his big league debut.

"He didn't have great command of his off-speed stuff, but you saw flashes of brilliance here and there," Zaun said. "The way I look at it is once he settles in and gets more comfortable, he'll be fine."

Tillman agreed, saying, "I'll definitely be able to sleep tonight."

ROYALS @ORIOLES

Today, 12:35 p.m.

TV: MASN

Radio: 105.7 FM

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