SARASOTA, Fla. – Chris Tillman gets his third straight Opening Day start next Monday against the Minnesota Twins.
He’s the first Orioles starter with three consecutive Opening Day starts since Mike Mussina in 1998-2000, and just the fourth team in team history to do that.
“It’s not something that you can take lightly, I don’t think. I don’t any of these for granted, just like any of our guys wouldn’t. I take a lot of pride in my day, getting the ball every fifth day, and especially this one,” Tillman said.
Mussina (1994-97, 98-2000), Jim Palmer (1974-77) and Dave McNally (1969-71) are the others to get at least three straight Opening Day starts.
“I’m not a guy that looks too much into that. I don’t take this for granted. I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse. It’s important to me, and it’s important for the team, and I’m excited to get it going,” Tillman said.
Tillman is scheduled to start on Wednesday against Detroit in his final Grapefruit League start. He has a 9.31 ERA.
He doesn’t say that it carries any special responsibility.
“On this team, no. I don’t think so. We’re big on, ‘we’re only as good as our starter tonight.’ It’s Opening Day starter for one day out of the year, and we have 161 more, so I think collectively as a group, it’s important for all of us to pitch well on the night we get the ball,” Tillman said.
“Opening Day is important because it’s the first game of the new season, and everyone is excited. A whole new opportunity. I think baseball is good in the fact that we do have 162 games, and you have plenty of starts to show up for.”
Tillman will be pitching an opener at home for the second time, and it’ something he cherishes.
“Any time we have Opening Day at home is a good time. Two years ago was at home, I believe. Last year was Tampa. Any time you’re at home, it’s a little better, get the hometown crowd, orange carpet deal, a lot of noise. It’s fun,” Tillman said.
It’s easier now, he says.
“I think I’m more prepared for it now. It was something I hadn’t experienced before. The first one was rough on me. Nerves got to me. The excitement was through the roof, butterfly deal. I know what to expect. I know what our fans do now and they’re as much a part of this as any of us are, so it’s a lot of fun being there,” Tillman said.