Tap-In Question: What do you do with Tillman? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Connolly's Tap Room

Tap-In Question: What do you do with Tillman?

Every now and then, I throw a question to you in the Tap Room that seemingly has no right answer.

Today is one of those days.

I wanna know: What do you think the Orioles should do with right-hander Chris Tillman?

Tillman has been the club’s most reliable starter through the past five seasons; he’s been the Orioles’ de facto ace. From 2012 through 2016, Tillman made 153 starts for the Orioles, compiled a 65-33 record and posted a solid 4.03 ERA.

That five-season ERA would have been much lower if it hadn’t been for a 2015 in which he had a 4.99. His worst ERA in his other four seasons was 3.77.

That’s important to remember because this season Tillman’s ERA in nine starts is 8.39 – far and away his worst extended stretch. He has allowed 64 hits and 22 walks in 39 2/3 innings since beginning his Orioles’ season on May 7 – his year was truncated by shoulder trouble that first surfaced last August and robbed Tillman of basically his entire spring training in 2017.

Notice this question today isn’t, “What’s wrong with Chris Tillman?”

No one has that answer. Tillman believes it is a mechanical issue. He said he is healthy and he feels his shoulder is strong. Orioles manager Buck Showalter seems at a loss – saying that Tillman’s pitches haven’t been crisp and his command has been off.

No one can figure out what to do, how to turn this around.


If Tillman doesn’t improve soon, the Orioles really will be in a pickle. Showalter has said as much; he can’t keep a pitcher with an 8 ERA in the rotation, but the alternatives aren’t pleasant.

For now, Tillman will start Sunday at the Tampa Bay Rays, who are suddenly one of the more power-laden teams in baseball.

In my opinion, the Orioles don’t have any choice but to keep starting Tillman and hoping for the best. They have no one in the wings that is clearly better. They have no one that has a better track record in the entire organization.

And they have nowhere to put the 29-year-old Tillman. He’s made 188 big league appearances in his career, all as a starter. Aside from the lack of experience, Tillman doesn’t profile as a reliever.

He’s had trouble in the first inning during a chunk of his career. And, most important, he’s recovering from a shoulder injury, so the worst thing to do is try to have him pitch multiple times a week. Asking for even more potential trouble there.

Ubaldo Jimenez has been sent to the bullpen in three different seasons when he has struggled in the rotation and, for the most part, it helped him. But, Showalter points out, the rubber-armed Jimenez “is a little bit more equipped for it physically.”

I’m sure some of you will have the knee-jerk reaction – especially in social media avenues – to say cut or trade Tillman. Well, the Orioles have no one undoubtedly better to replace him in the majors or in a thin minor league system. No one you can confidently say will be better in the second half of this season than Tillman. We’ve already covered that.

Secondly, he has no real trade value pitching like this, unless the full purpose is to dump his salary and get little or nothing in return. Which makes little sense to me.

Yes, there’s always the disabled list route. But Tillman continues to say he’s healthy. So, it could happen, but it would raise eyebrows. Contractually, you can’t just send him to the minors.

My thought is you have to keep starting him until the All-Star Break and hope that more rest and hard work – the guy has a great work ethic – pays off.

That’s the answer I keep coming back to, anyway. Now, what’s your take?

Tap-In Question: What do you do with Chris Tillman?



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 22, 2017 at 7:36 am

    Tillman is the new Jimenez.

    I’ve often said that I’d rather go down with Ubaldo than throw gas on the flame with the likes of Wright or Wilson. Likewise with Chris. Dan, you stated that “If Tillman doesn’t improve soon, the Orioles really will be in a pickle”. Are they not already in a pickle?

    Barring an unbeknownst injury, I see no other option for the Tillman dilemma than to keep feeding him to the lions every 5th game.

    One last comment Dan … either the makeup artist at MASN is really, really good, or your face isn’t really that prohibitive for TV. Keep up the good work on your newfound media outlet.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Yes. They are already in a pickle. But every ineffective outing makes it more, um, sour. As for TV, that’s my natural beauty. Shouldn’t put lipstick/makeup on a pig.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    June 22, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Agreed Dan-O, Tillman sucks right now, but he’s got enough of a track record that I say give him some more rope. Plus, it’s not like he’ll damage the O’s non-existent championship hopes with a few more stinkers. Get back out there and earn that paycheck big fella.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

      As you can tell, that’s my sense, too.


    June 22, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I think you just have to keep sending him out there. It’s not like we have anyone waiting in the wings. You can’t trade him. Personally, I don’t think he is healthy. I know loyalty means little these days in pro sports but the Orioles owe him every chance to prove he can pitch.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 9:47 am

      I think that last part is key. More than most he deserves the chance. But there is the health thing.

  4. Osfan73

    June 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Quite the enigma Tillman’s struggles are at the moment. In the abscence of any more pallatable options you just have to keep starting him every 5th day. In the meantime drill down on the mechanics make sure there’s no issues there and make sure his mind and body are right. IMO I would focus on the latter.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 11:08 am

      It’s not for a lack of working on his part. That’s for sure.

  5. pedro

    June 22, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I disagree. Really, what are we doing here? Tillman needs to work out his issues on the minor leagues. Put him on the DL (shoulder tendinitis or something) and send him to Sarasota to rehab, followed by minor leagues starts – until he is effective. Remember, he got shelled in his rehab starts in April/May. He wasn’t ready, and the team is paying the price now. Please, please don’t give me the “but we don’t have anyone else” line. Do you want to contend this year? Tillman may be finished. It’s his contract year. Do you want to fall out of the race still saying “we hope he turns it around. He’s making his next start”.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 11:10 am

      This is why I put this up in the bar. I can see that point of view as well. I’m not sure you can declare he is finished at age 29 after a rocky 1/3 of the season as he comes back from injury. But the real question is what’s best for the team right now. And that certainly can be debated.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 22, 2017 at 11:06 am

    I don’t think I can vote for Pedro.

    “Fall out of the race”? Pedro, they are already out of the race. They’ll be down 20+ games by the end of the y ear. Stick a fork in them …

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Hahahaha. Buy him a fake beer and all will be good

  7. cobragt23

    June 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

    how about skipping a start and give Tilly some extra rest. or even try an extra day and if not skipping but push his scheduled start back an extra day or two. I agree on not giving up on him he is got too much up side verses what he is worth now.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      That’s one I didn’t mention. And mainly because they are massaging the rotation to give Bundy some rest. And I don’t think you have enough arms to do both. And if it is an arm strength situation with Tillman, the best way to build it up is to throw more.

  8. Creatively_19

    June 22, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Tillman hasn’t been the same since he came back from the injury. Luckily for me I traded him away in my Fantasy League right off the DL, but I digress.

    As an O’s fan, and somebody who’s seen Tillman at his best, you gotta keep running him out there and hope he finds his stuff. If he’s healthy as he says, it should come back. If it doesn’t by the end of the season then we can part ways. If he gets himself together then maybe we can resign him in the offseason.

    My gut feeling is this will not be an overnight thing, and that the injury is having a greater impact than he’s letting on, even if its just a slight loss of strength and motion, and it will take quite a bit of work on his part to correct.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      I’m with ya 19. Speculation, of course. But certainly not an overnight thing regardless.

  9. Strovel

    June 22, 2017 at 11:54 am

    The only real option is to keep sending him out there, for all the reasons you outlined. Every team in the Orioles system has a losing record and the starters’ ERAs across all the levels are godawful. Time to punt and move Tilly if he can string together five good starts to spike (somewhat) his value.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      If he can string five good together tho, that will he’ll push the Orioles forward in the standings, one could presume. And that would make it more unlikely they deal anyone.

  10. TxBirdFan

    June 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I like the idea of skipping a start to see if that helps. Running him out there every 5 days sure hasn’t, and I might be a bit Pollyanna, but I don’t think the season is lost yet. Were only 5 games back and a modest win streak will put us right back in it.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      The problem with that, tho, as I detailed in another comment, they are manipulating the rotation to get Bundy some rest. So kind of a catch 22.

  11. pedro

    June 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    We are 2 games out of the 2nd wild card spot. Come on, Brooks Robinson Robinson, you’re giving up? It’s too soon for that. Continuing to send Tillman out there, and accepting this performance, is bad for the team and the fan base. Rehab Tillman in Florida and the minor leagues. Try another starter while you bring back Britton and O’Day. Too soon to give in IMO.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      It definitely is too soon to give up. And this organization rarely throws in the towel when playoffs are in reasonable striking distance. That’s the m.o. here.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Pedro .. I’m normally about the most optimistic of the O’s fan ’round these parts, but I just can’t see it. This team has been about chemistry for the past 5 years, and frankly that chemistry we all enjoyed was blown up this year, and it all started when the management decided to let one of it’s cornerstone players go play in Washington DC for a few duckets more than what they’re paying his oft injured replacement. The chemistry .. or what I like to call call juju, simply isn’t there anymore. All the saber-metricians around here can laugh at me all they want, but baseball is a game of the heart and soul and magic. The O’s magic just isn’t there this year. All that being said …

      Let’s Go O’s!!!

  12. Steve Cockey

    June 22, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I’d give him another 2-3 starts. If things haven’t improved by then, I’d put him on the DL. Give him some rest, some time in Sarasota, and a few rehab starts.

    He can say he isn’t hurt, but the data says otherwise. Tillman averaged 93.5 mph on his four-seamer in the first 3 months of last year. By September, it was down to 91.66. May of this year? 90.36. This month? 91.21.

    A sustained velocity drop like that doesn’t scream of something mechanical to me. Maybe there’s no physical pain, but he doesn’t seem to have the same arm strength, conviction, and finish on his pitches that we’ve seen in the past. And that points to him not being 100% healthy in my mind. Maybe some additional rest would do him good.

  13. Liamandcarolinesdad

    June 22, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I find myself in the “Tilly is hurt” camp. He can say he isn’t until he turns blue in the face. These guys are professionals and want to be on the field. In Chris’s case, he’s in a contract year, and he knows that every start he misses, his salary for 2018 and beyond takes a hit. So psychologically he is thinking he can push through it and eventually things will balance out and he will get on a roll. Again, it’s just my opinion, but my gut tells me he’s hurt.

  14. Ben1

    June 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I honestly believe that DD with the support of Angelos has destroyed the Oriole franchise. His being out of baseball for 10 years after being fired by Boaton should have been a BIG red flag when Angelos hires him but then many proven GMs turned down the job. That says a lot. Weak minors. Weak starting pitching staff. Musical chair of pitching coaches. Shopping sprees of rule 5 players (discarded by original teams) have provided zero depth.
    I was there opening day 1954 and am still there. Seen great teams and average teams over the past 63 seasons but this GM has given field management not much to work with and has wasted SO many millions of dollars in so few years. Shame on Angelos fir giving us Dan Duquette.

  15. garyintheloo

    June 25, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Dan, despite your reasons for doing the same thing and expecting a different result Jimenez, Miley and Tillman need to go. Consider that a supposed playoff contender has THREE non performers in the starting rotation and you have to stick with them because they don’t have anyone else in the system even as trade prospects? Well shame on us. Cut bait and start the auditions since none of them will be here next year anyway and you will have the same issues in November.

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