BALTIMORE -- Chris Tillman is putting the best positive face on his assignment to the Orioles' bullpen. The right-hander, who has never pitched in relief in the majors, is no longer a starter after 15 difficult outings and an 8.10 ERA.
Manager Buck Showalter announced the move Aug. 5, and Tillman has accepted it without complaint.
“I knew something was going to happen,” Tillman said. “I needed to get back to being me, and it wasn’t happening starting, so I think it’s going to be a good thing. I need to get back, and I think it’s for no other purpose than that.”
Tillman, who has 194 major league starts without making a relief appearance, last pitched Aug. 3 when he allowed seven runs, five earned, in two-plus innings.
Showalter talked to Tillman about the move, and while the right-hander may not be enthusiastic about it, he knows it's necessary.
“It’s not easy. I’ve never seen myself in that spot, but you know what? I haven’t been pitching well enough,” Tillman said. “I understand. I’m not mad. I just need to get better. I’m not going to go down there and mope around. I’m going to go down there for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s to get better and get back to being who I know I can be. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s not gone. I just need to get back to it. Finally, it’s headed in the right direction.”
Showalter has respect for Tillman, who’s been his most consistent starter in the years the Orioles have been competitive.
“Chris is the ultimate, ‘What’s-best-for-the-team’ guy. Believe me, you may not always see it, he wears it. It bothers him,” Showalter said. “It eats at him. Can you imagine having the success that he’s had and not being able to get there again?”
Showalter has moved right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez into the bullpen when he’s had rough periods as a starter, and it’s worked out well for the Orioles. He’s betting the same thing happens with Tillman.
“He wants what’s best for the team,” Showalter said. “Like I said when we put Ubaldo down there, I’ll bet you that we’re gonna have a need and Chris is gonna be ready to serve it.”
Not only has Tillman spoken with Jimenez, he’s also talked with left-hander Zach Britton, who was converted from a starter to a standout reliever.
“There’s a few guys I’ve talked to about it. I think there’s a lot of experience when it comes to that in this clubhouse,” Tillman said. “Take it with a positive mindset and get back.”
Tillman will have to use downtime to improve and pitch well in games.
“I’ve got to pitch better, regardless. I think what was going on before wasn’t good enough,” Tillman said. “I think side sessions and bullpens, those are important because that’s where you kind of iron everything out and then when you get into a game that’s when you put it to use and you start to hopefully see the results.”