BALTIMORE -- Ever since Orioles manager Buck Showalter sent Chris Tillman to the bullpen early last month, opportunities to pitch have been few and far between for the right-hander.
Tillman has started three times and relieved four times. Since his last start Sept. 3, he’s pitched just twice -- for 3.1 innings. Overall, Tillman is 1-7 with a 7.66 ERA.
The 29-year-old says he’s not nostalgic, and on the eve of the Orioles’ final home game of the season, the soon-to-be free agent isn’t thinking his nine-year run in Baltimore is about to end.
“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot, but I know that it could be,” Tillman said. “You never know. I don’t like jumping to conclusions.”
After five successful seasons and starting the previous three Opening Days, it’s been a troubling season for the gentleman, who recently became a father for the first time.
Could going somewhere else would be best for Tillman? Other teams will surely be interested in a pitcher who isn’t yet 30, is a great teammate and prior to this year, had those excellent seasons.
“I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it,” Tillman said. “The whole fresh start could be anywhere. It’s a new year. I’m going to have a healthy offseason. That fresh start could be here. A lot of the comforts I already have are here. I’m comfortable here. It’s the only thing I know. That whole fresh start doesn’t have to be somewhere else. It could be here.”
Tillman, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., in the offseason, where the Orioles have spring training, isn’t planning anything special to make sure his right shoulder, which delayed the start of his season for a month, won’t act up.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of the same,” Tillman said. “Last year I wasn’t able to do some things, but a lot of the same what I’ve done in the past, find out what caused things to go south here, and fix them.”
The relative inactivity hasn’t been easy on Tillman.
“It’s tough, at the same time, the morale of it is, if you don’t like it, pitch better,” Tillman said. “I’ve always held myself to that, and I can’t expect to run out there every fifth day and put the team behind. I understand it. I get it.
"I’m not going out there with a bad attitude or anything. I just want to get better to where I know that I’m going to pitch every fifth day. That’s the only thing I’m comfortable with. I don’t blame anybody but myself. It’s my fault. No one else’s. If I had pitched better, I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Tillman didn’t pitch during the Orioles’ 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before 42,802 at Oriole Park Sept. 23. The loss eliminated the Orioles from playoff consideration, and at 74-82, they’re guaranteed their first losing season since 2011.
“We’ve all been tunnel vision trying to win as many games in a row as we can and see where it takes us,” Showalter said. “I’ve tried to stay to stay out of that mentality. If that is the case we’ll readdress where we are.”
Jeremy Hellickson allowed three runs on four hits in six innings. First baseman Lucas Duda’s three-run homer in the third was the key hit off the right-hander. Mike Wright allowed four runs in the ninth.
The Orioles scored five runs in the ninth but could not complete a comeback.
NOTES: Shortstop Tim Beckham left the game in the ninth inning with a hamstring injury. … Showalter reported a day after the stem cell injection in his left knee, closer Zach Britton is still sore. … The Orioles conclude their home season Sept. 24 when right-handers Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24) and Chris Archer (9-11, 4.02) face each other at 1:35 p.m. … Outfielder Trey Mancini has a 13-game hitting streak. … The Orioles have now exceeded 2 million in paid attendance for six straight seasons.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox