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Is The Bullpen In Chris Tillman's Future?

August 4, 2017
BALTIMORE -- For most of the previous five seasons, Chris Tillman consistently gave the Orioles effective starts. During three of those seasons, the Orioles made the postseason.
 
Now, the right-hander has fallen on hard times. Tillman is 1-7 with a frightful 8.10 ERA. According to ESPN, that’s the highest ERA for a starter during their first 15 starts in the past seven seasons.
 
But, will he make another start for the Orioles? Tillman’s contract is up at the end of this season, but it doesn’t appear the team is eager to prematurely cut ties with him. He can’t be put on the 10-day disabled list because his right shoulder, which was sore at the beginning of the season, is now healthy.
 
Manager Buck Showalter characterizes Tillman’s starts as “very uncharacteristic.”
 
Showalter is confident Tillman is healthy. “He’s throwing the ball harder than he’s been throwing it the last two, three years,” Showalter said.
 
The Orioles will make a decision on Tillman’s immediate future in the next day or two.
 
“He’ll either continue to start or be in the bullpen,” Showalter said. “I think we’re leaning towards one way more than the other, but we’re not quite there yet.”
 
Tillman would probably be in line to start Aug. 9 at the Los Angeles Angels. Despite his bad line this year, Tillman could start in Angel Stadium next week because he’s allowed just one earned run in 14 innings in two career starts there, and Showalter relies heavily on ballpark history when deciding on a starter. 
 
“There’s nobody that wants to post up every fifth day more than Chris Tillman,” Showalter said. “Any frustration someone may have with it whether it be a fan, coach or someone in the front office, believe me, you can triple it where Chris is concerned. It does bother him.”

Tillman has never relieved in the major leagues. If Tillman doesn’t start, right-hander Miguel Castro, who threw six one-hit innings in relief of him Aug. 3, is the likely choice.
 
“[Castro] certainly presented himself as an option to start down the road,” Showalter said.
 
Meanwhile, right-hander Kevin Gausman continued his streak of excellent starts. Gausman, who came within an out of his first nine-inning complete game July 29, gave up a home run to Detroit outfielder Jim Adduci in the first inning, and then just two more hits in seven innings. He retired his last 11 batters.
 
Gausman’s outstanding start went for naught as outfielder Justin Upton hit a grand-slam to send the Orioles to a 5-2 loss before 22,882 at Oriole Park Aug. 4.
 
It was the first grand-slam allowed by right-hander Mychal Givens in 136 career appearances. His record in three major league seasons is now 17-3. Givens had allowed just two earned runs in his past 30 innings.
 
“He’s been throwing the ball really well for a long time for us,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “I don’t think it’s fair to start jumping on him right now. He’s throwing the ball really well. He’s one of the reasons we’ve made some runs at this thing. He’ll throw a little bit better next time.”
 
Gausman struck out eight and walked one. In his last four starts, Gausman has given up two runs on 19 hits in 27.2 innings. His ERA has fallen from 7.55 May 3 to 5.15.
 
“I don’t know if it’s confidence. I think I’ve just executed my pitches a lot better,” Gausman said. “To get to the point where I’m at. Two strikes, I’m executing my pitches a lot better than I was early on.”
 
Tim Beckham continued his hot hitting. He had four hits, has seven straight hits in the past two games, and during his four games with the Orioles, is 11-for-16 (.686).
 
“Got a new environment, things change,” Showalter said. “He wants to play and he’s going to get an opportunity here. And we’ll see where it takes us. But so far he’s been really good obviously. You can tell he seems really locked in in a lot of areas other than just day to day. He’s not going out of his way to fit in.”
 
NOTES: Left fielder Trey Mancini, who fouled a ball off his left knee Aug. 3, was out of the lineup. Showalter hopes Mancini will return in a day or two.  ... LHP Wade Miley (5-9, 5.60) faces RHP Drew VerHagen (0-1, 6.75) Aug. 5.