Chris Tillman is one of those guys who hates when he’s not doing something.
And he knew that if he had a cortisone shot in his aching right shoulder that he’d be sidelined for another 10 days or so during a spring in which he has been idle way too long for his liking already.
He talked to various people, and most told him to take the shot – one that can be administered only once every six months – while it’s spring training and the games don’t count.
“I wasn’t necessarily gonna do it or not gonna do it. I had a lot of people talking to me about it trying to say, ‘Why aren’t you gonna do it? What’s going on here? Blah blah blah, this and that,’” Tillman said. “So, I decided — you know what? — it might not be the worst thing because realistically you’re supposed to take 10 days after the shot before you really do anything. So, does it buy you time? Yes, but sometimes it might be too long for the player, sometimes it’s too short. You ever know. So, I think we have our time to take to get it right and make sure the fire is put out.”
Tillman dealt with shoulder discomfort in September, had a platelet-rich-plasma injection in December and the cortisone shot this week after the shoulder wasn’t feeling 100 percent prior to a scheduled bullpen session Sunday.
He’s behind schedule to the point that he’ll miss the first two weeks of the season – and maybe more. So, is Tillman the bulldog resigned to that?
“I mean, yeah. I guess,” Tillman said.
His thought process with getting the shot was simple. He was going to be out for a few days resting anyway. Cover that with the 10-day requisite dormant period after a cortisone shot and the wait to pitch wouldn’t be that much longer than if he hadn’t had the shot. And any residual pain should be gone.
He hopes to resume shoulder strengthening exercises soon and said it’s possible he could be throwing before those 10 days expire, though we all know the Orioles’ medical staff is cautious. My guess is he’ll throw when the Orioles decide the time is right, not when Tillman wants to.
“I feel like it might not have to be that long, but to do it right, like I’ve been saying all along, it might be,” Tillman said. “We might start exercises here the next couple days, and that’s a big part of it, that’s part of the shot.”
The elephant in the room here is that this is a huge year for Tillman. He is a free agent at the end of the season. And the difference between having another solid, consistent, healthy year and one in which he breaks down is millions upon millions. At 28, he needs to look out for his future.
But let’s also be honest about the Orioles’ end of this. The rotation is already a box of chocolates. You really don’t know what you’re gonna get from any of the other four members: Two that are young and promising and two that have had wildly inconsistent performances in the recent past.
People don’t like to call Tillman the staff ace, but he is the anchor, he is the steadying force. These Orioles need Tillman to be healthy and performing well just as much as Tillman needs to do that for his own future.
So, the Orioles are going to be cautious. And Tillman is going to shrug his shoulders and stay on the program while games don’t count.
He’ll even miss some that do, but that’s what has to happen if he wants to make 30 starts after mid-April.
Will he start 30 times in 2017? I don’t know.
But he flashed a glimmer of the resolve we’re used to seeing in Friday’s interview, when, in typical form, Tillman said he’d probably pitch through any lingering discomfort if this were the regular season.
“If we’re sitting here in June or July, I’m probably pitching,” Tillman said. “At the same time, we’re talking spring training here. It’s not worth it to me.”
Note: The Orioles have released right-hander Logan Ondrusek, who was on the 40-man roster but had been shelved with elbow discomfort. By releasing him now, the Orioles save a portion of the $650,000 he was owed for this season. MLB ‘s transactions page first announced the release.