Tillman calls spring a work in progress

March 16, 2012|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman wants to throw more strikes, he wants to pitch more scoreless innings and he wants to keep himself in contention for a spot in the rotation.

After Friday's 3-1 exhibition victory against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium in which Tillman allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings, the 23-year-old right-hander called his spring a "work in progress."

But Orioles manager Buck Showalter was a little more effusive about Tillman, who has allowed just three runs in 8 1/3 innings in three spring games.

"Tilly's stuff has been good. He's had some problems in the past with not (doing) what he is capable of early in a ballgame. That hasn't happened down here," Showalter said. "I've been really impressed with his stuff. He's been very crisp with his stuff from the first pitch."

Tillman has been using a new leg kick this spring and is trying to get the ball to the plate more quickly this season with runners on base. At times, he said, he is rushing his pitches and missing his location. He threw 28 of his 51 pitches for strikes Friday.

"I know exactly what I need to do," Tillman said. "I just need to slow myself down and try not to be so quick."

After three scoreless innings, he was chased in the fourth after giving up consecutive singles to Chris Parmalee and Ryan Doumit and recording a force out. Parmalee eventually scored on a force out against Orioles farmhand Robert Hinton to break a scoreless tie.

Overall, Tillman, who was 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA in 13 starts last year, has been pleased with his results this spring.

"It's going well. I think I've made some adjustments, some mechanical adjustments," Tillman said. "It's helping me already. I'm excited about it. I'm able to make the adjustments quicker and see exactly what I'm doing wrong and go from there."

And though he is still considered by observers to be a long shot to make the Opening Day rotation, the man he needs to impress the most says he is not dismissing Tillman yet.

"He doesn't get missed in the shuffle with me. Tilly's a guy with a big upside," Showalter said. "I feel good about where he is. His arm is a lot further along than it was last year at this time."

Andino hits first homer

The Orioles moved their spring record to 5-6 by beating the Twins (7-8) on Friday.

Second baseman Robert Andino hit his first homer of the spring, a deep shot to left-center that hit the scoreboard and tied the game at 1-1. It came off Twins' former first-rounder Carlos Gutierrez.

The Orioles scored two more runs in the eighth to take the lead on a Scott Beerer single and a Twins' error.

Lefty Dana Eveland, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade in December, pitched exceptionally well, retiring all nine batters he faced, while striking out one. It was a big upgrade over his last outing, in which he allowed six hits and three runs (one earned) in two innings.

"It seems like he is a little more at ease," Showalter said of Eveland. "A lot of pitchers, when they are new to organizations, get some anxiety out there the first time out, couple times out. I think we saw a little more relaxed guy doing what he is capable of doing."

Injury updates

The Orioles continue to nurse many of their key players back to health. Tommy Hunter (back) threw in a minor league game on Friday and Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow), Luis Ayala (allergies) and Alfredo Simon (groin) threw side sessions. Wada is expected to pitch Sunday afternoon in Orlando against the Atlanta Braves and Simon and Ayala are scheduled to pitch Sunday night against the New York Yankees in Sarasota.

Zach Britton (shoulder) and Jake Arrieta (elbow) will pitch in a minor-league game at Twin Lakes Park on Monday, when the rest of the big leaguers have off. Arrieta will throw four innings and Britton, three.

Jim Johnson (back) and Nick Markakis (abdomen) will each play in their second game this spring, both in Saturday's split-squad game at Sarasota. Jason Berken (hamstring) will throw from either a half-mound or full mound on Saturday.Darren O'Day threw from a half-mound Friday.

Miguel Socolovich, who strained his groin in Thursday's game and had to leave in mid-inning, said he still felt some discomfort Friday, but is considered day-to-day. He's not sure when he'll pitch again in a game.

Johnson dealing with "soreness"

First baseman Nick Johnson was originally expected to make the trip to Fort Myers, but did not make it due to "general soreness," according to Showalter.

The 33-year-old, who has an extensive injury history, has played in seven exhibition games this season. And Showalter said there was no reason to push him Friday. But he is expected to play again Saturday.

"He has been taking a lot of reps on purpose," Showalter said. "Part of his evaluation is if he can stand up to the grind, physically."

Around the horn

Reliever Kevin Gregg, who has appeared in just two games this spring, is expected to pitch Saturday in Sarasota against the Boston Red Sox. … Catcher John Hester threw out two runners in the third inning on Friday. … Matt Antonelli played shortstop as a defensive replacement for the first time this spring.


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