ARLINGTON, Tex.—As the Orioles were getting ready to take batting practice at Globe Life Park on Thursday, they saw a familiar face running over to them.
Chris Tillman, who was released by the Orioles July 27 signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers and he was loosening up in the outfield.
Tillman hugged Alex Cobb, shook hands with Dylan Bundy and exchanged greetings with others.
The 30-year-old went 1-5 with a horrifying 10.46 ERA before he was placed on the disabled list with a lower back injury and after completing a 30-day rehab with a 6.75 ERA in six starts, the Orioles decided to let him go.
Tillman was offered a chance to go to Triple-A Norfolk as insurance, but decided to pass on the Orioles and became a free agent.
“They made it pretty clear they were going young and kind of said that regardless of what I did, they were going to stick with the young guys, pretty much,” Tillman said. “That doesn’t sound like a very good opportunity to me. I kind of waited it out a little bit, and here I am.”
Tillman hasn’t pitched since July 15 and had been home in Sarasota, Fla. He fielded a few calls from teams, and his teammate from the Orioles in 2016, Yovani Gallardo, who’s starting on Thursday, urged him to come to the Rangers. He’ll report to Triple-A Round Rock.
I always feel good to have a new start,” Tillman said. “Kind of like spring training, the start of a new year. It’s a new opportunity.”
In Feb. 2008, Tillman came to the Orioles along with Adam Jones from Seattle in one of the best trades in team history, and more than a decade later gets to go to a new organization.
“I think it’s really important,” Tillman said while wearing a Rangers workout jersey.
“I’ve seen it work a bunch of times. We had a couple of guys that got a new opportunity and new sets of eyes on them and they turned into pretty good pitchers. You see that all the time. Get in a different environment, different colors, uniform. It’s a great opportunity. Looking back on what’s happened in Baltimore, it helps.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who has a soft spot for Tillman was happy to hear that he found a new baseball home.
“Perfect, great spot for him,” Showalter said. “That’s a good move by them. I hope he does well…For Chris’ sake, it’s probably the right move for him and his family and his future. He’s still a young man with a healthy arm. He’s still capable. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him pitching at a high level again.”
He’s certain that he’ll be successful again.
“I’m 100 percent confident,” Tillman said. “I don’t think it’s gone anywhere. I feel healthy. I’ve just got to start pitching again. I haven’t really pitched in a long time. I’ve got to pitch and get back to me.”
Tillman’s release was overlooked in the purge that saw Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Darren O’Day get traded in 13 days. He wasn’t surprised to see the radical makeover.
“Not really. We saw it coming for a while,” Tillman said. “We weren’t playing up to our capabilities and that goes across the clubhouse. It was time. I really feel like it was. It’s unfortunate, both for the fans and the players. If we were playing better, it probably wouldn’t have happened. It feels on the players.”
Tillman had a wonderful time with the Orioles. He finished his career 74-60 with a 4.57 ERA in 10 seasons.
“It was awesome. I can’t say a bad thing about it,” Tillman said. “I spent a lot of time there…I had a lot of fun. I got to know a lot of really good people for a long time. We had a heck of a run for quite a few years. Unfortunately, it kind of unfolded the way it did. It was a heck of a lot of fun while it lasted.”
Tillman was superb from 2012-16 when he was 65-33 with a 3.81 ERA, but over the last two seasons lost 12 of 14 decisions with an 8.42 ERA. He joins a new team with fond memories of his last one.
“I didn’t really pitch all that great,” Tillman said. If you don’t like it, pitch better…No hard feelings.”