Connor, Showalter both back struggling Tillman; Tillman-Fox out of sync?
After giving up eight runs on 10 hits and a walk in the Orioles' 9-1 loss this afternoon to the Kansas City Royals, starter Chris Tillman fell to 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA after six starts. However, both manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor essentially came to the youngster's defense after the game.
"He’s a young pitcher, the younger pitcher on our staff, I believe," Showalter said. "He certainly has some things that challenge inexperienced pitchers that he’s got to work through. ... The way he started out, I thought he was going to pitch pretty well. Stuffwise, he was in better shape than he has been in the past. But he’s got to do better than that. We all know that."
Showalter was asked by MASN's Gary Thorne whether Tillman would remain in the rotation, and he said: "As far as I’m concerned. He’s going to have to get better. Our options are him and a few others."
OK, probably not the biggest endorsement, but Connor made some interesting comments about the young starter.
"You know, normally when a guy gives up eight runs, you wouldn’t talk positively about a whole lot of things. But like I told him, the things that we’ve been working on, I saw it today. I saw it coming together a little bit," Connor said. "We’re trying to get angle, we’re trying to get his body downhill to throw the ball. I thought the ball came out of his hand better today. Really, he gives up eight runs, but I thought there were like two or three bad pitches that he made.
"I told him, ‘It’s hard to take some positives out of that, but we’re going to.’ We’re going to keep working. He threw some good curveballs, some good cutters. His fastball had some life, and it had some angle. It was downhill a little more than what it has been."
I'm sure some people will dismiss those comments as a veteran pitching coach not wanting to further damage the psyche of a young starter, but I don't. Connor doesn't usually sugarcoat a poor performance by his pitcher, so if that's what he's doing in this case, it's out of character.
Though nobody would say it in the clubhouse after the game, it seemed pretty obvious that Tillman and catcher Jake Fox weren't exactly on the same page. Fox had a rough afternoon himself, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout, allowing two stolen bases and two wild pitches, and sailing one throw that was intended for Tillman into center field.
Asked whether he felt that Tillman and Fox were a little out of sync, Connor said, "Maybe a little bit, but I put that on the pitcher."
When he was asked about the work of his battery, Showalter said: "[Tillman] pitched pretty well the last time out with Fox. I’m not a big believer in hanging that around catchers. The way he pitched last time out was presentable. I’d like to take it to another level."
Tillman's response when he was asked that question was: "It was just a frustrating day. There’s really nothing else I can say.”