If the Orioles are going to return to contention in 2016, Chris Tillman must have a better year.
After three seasons of excellence, 2015 was an erratic one for Tillman.
There were some good starts, particularly in July when he pitched as well as he ever had. In his final three starts that month, Tillman allowed just one run on seven hits in 23 2/3 innings.
In that last start against Atlanta, Tillman nearly had a complete game, and turned his ankle in the ninth inning.
He won just once in the next eight starts and finished with an 11-11 record and an ERA just a tick under five runs per game.
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Tillman looked as if he had reached stardom as he began 2015. The Orioles were talking with him about a possible extension, and in his previous 2 ½ seasons, Tillman went 38-16 and received a late All-Star bid in 2013.
He pitched over 200 innings in both 2013 and 2014, but fell back to 173 this year.
Tillman had five starts that were three innings or fewer—three against Toronto and two against Seattle. Particularly alarming were his numbers when facing the Blue Jays. Tillman was 0-4 with an 11.72 ERA in six starts.
Manager Buck Showalter would have liked to have him avoid Toronto, but he was busy protecting Wei-Yin Chen against them. Chen started just four teams against Toronto in four years.
Tillman had worked with Matt Wieters for years, and Wieters was able to steady Tillman in the early innings of games, and coax better performances.
In 2014 with Wieters hurt, Nick Hundley caught Tillman to a 2.78 ERA while his ERA with Caleb Joseph was 5.29 in seven starts.
Fortunately, he had better success with Joseph in 2015 with a 3.51 ERA.
That’s good because with Wieters likely gone in 2016, Tillman will have to pitch more often to Joseph, Steve Clevenger and perhaps a veteran catcher to be named later.
While the Orioles will certainly need another starter or perhaps two, a return to his 2012-14 form could help get them back into the postseason conversation.
And, maybe there would be some more conversations about that extension.
NOTES: Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Phillies named Matt Klentak as their general manager. Klentak worked under Andy MacPhail with the Orioles for four years before heading to the Angels in 2011. He’ll again be working for MacPhail. … Travis Snider, who had a nightmarish four months with the Orioles before re-signing with Pittsburgh, has filed for free agency after being outrighted by the Pirates.
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