The Chris Tillman bullpen experiment has ended after two scoreless appearances – at least it has been halted temporarily.
Since Tillman didn’t pitch out of the bullpen in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, the 29-year-old veteran will get the start Sunday in the series rubber match.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wants to get his starters an extra day’s rest when possible down the stretch, and so Tillman will be re-inserted in the rotation Sunday.
“Chris has a really good pedigree of pitching good baseball for the Orioles and he’s done the things that we asked him to do to get back,” Showalter said. “We need him to pitch well for us to get to where we want to go. It’s got the chance to give us a shot in the arm. It may happen (Sunday), it may not happen. But he’s done his part and the two outings have been better and his work day went well. I don’t know, we’ll see.”
With Tillman leaving the bullpen, the Orioles could use another arm to replace him. The problem is reliever Miguel Castro, who has thrown 2 1/3 innings on consecutive nights, has been pitching as well as anybody and the Orioles don’t want to send him back to the minors if possible. But he’ll be unavailable for a few days and can be sent down without passing through waivers.
One possibility is for the Orioles to put a starter in the bullpen as an emergency in case Tillman has a short outing Sunday. Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched Wednesday, is an option, I’d presume. He wouldn’t have to start until after Thursday’s off day if Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson stayed on regular rest. Miley also could be an emergency bullpen arm, I suppose.
Showalter didn’t address any of that specifically, but did suggest that they will be juggling things before Sunday’s game.
“We’re going to make some adjustments if we need to. We were talking about it,” Showalter said. “Got some ideas and some things to do to keep us from sending out people that are pitching well if we can help it.”
Tillman was pulled from the rotation following his Aug. 3 start against Detroit in which he allowed seven runs (five earned) in two innings to push his season ERA to 8.10.
He had made 194 starts in the majors before coming out of the bullpen for the first time in his big league career last Sunday in Oakland, where he retired all four batters he faced. He allowed two hits in one scoreless inning Wednesday in Seattle.
Now he’ll get the ball in the first inning Sunday against the Angels, the team he grew up cheering for as a kid in Southern California. In his career against the Angels, he is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts.
Tillman will oppose former Oriole right-hander Parker Bridwell, whom the club sold to the Angels in April. He’s 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 appearances. He allowed one run in seven innings in his lone appearance against the Orioles on Aug. 8 in Anaheim, Calif.
A former ninth round pick in 2010, Bridwell pitched two games for the Orioles in 2016, but both were on the road. So he’ll be making his Camden Yards debut Sunday despite being a member of the organization for more than six years.
I talked to Bridwell briefly Saturday and he said he’s looking at Sunday’s outing like he would any other start. That’s what he tried to do against the Orioles earlier this month – and it worked for him.