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May 23, 2011

Orioles news, notes and opinions: Tillman, Gregg, Tatum, pitching matchups, Berken

Mostly lost in yesterday’s game because of Vladimir Guerrero’s heroics and Matt Wieters’ golden arm was Chris Tillman’s uneven outing. Tillman allowed one run on six hits and two walks over five innings. He was fortunate to avoid further damage -- the Nationals went 1-for-8 against him with runners in scoring position -- and the downside was he needed 97 pitches to navigate through five innings. I have been pretty negative about Tillman at times, and some posters -- and even some members of the Orioles' clubhouse -- maintain that I’ve been unfair to the 23-year-old. I disagree with the latter sentiment, but beyond all that, I do see him making strides. There’s no question that he’s frustrating to watch at times because he’s always falling behind hitters and working deep in counts. There’s no excuse to walk No. 9 hitter Alex Cora in any circumstance, as he did yesterday. Like many Orioles officials, I also struggle to comprehend why his fastball velocity fluctuates so much from start to start and inning to inning. But yesterday, Tillman’s stuff, for the most part, was better than what I’ve seen from him in a long time, an observation supported by Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Wieters. The sequence that followed the one-out walk to Cora and the double by Roger Bernadina was a good example. Tillman threw two really nice cut fastballs that Ian Desmond flailed at and then a nasty breaking ball to send Laynce Nix to the bench. It was a really nice sequence for a pitcher who is learning to compete and make adjustments. To this point, I have mostly disagreed with the line of thinking that Tillman has nothing left to prove in the minors and you need to keep running him out there every five days against big league hitters to see how he develops. My take was that you owe it to the rest of your team to give them a chance to win and it just isn’t fair to the hitters to keep being put into a big early hole and for the bullpen to keep having to come in so early in the game. However, I’m coming around to that line of thinking, mostly because I do see signs of progress from Tillman, even if all the results don’t necessarily indicate it.

When I was doing a story on Orioles closer Kevin Gregg in spring training, I asked several people about his high walk totals. Gregg walked 30 batters in 59 innings last season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Both former Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who had Gregg as his closer in Florida, and Showalter said the numbers were not a sign of poor command, but rather Gregg's pitching to the situation and not giving in to guys who can hurt him. That all may be true, but I’d have to think that Gregg’s propensity to walk hitters -- 13 free passes in 18 1/3 innings this season -- has become a concern. In getting the save yesterday against the Washington Nationals, Gregg walked one but went to full counts with all three batters he faced. Overall, he has faced 81 batters this season and has gone to three-ball counts with 25 of them, walking 13. His other issue has been getting the leadoff hitter out. The first batter he has faced in an inning is 5-for-16 against him with three walks.

It wouldn’t surprise me that if the next time the Orioles call on their backup catcher to start a game, which will probably be Thursday’s homestand afternoon finale against the Kansas City Royals, it will be Craig Tatum and not Jake Fox. It has been no secret that Showalter and the coaching staff would prefer to have a more natural backup catcher on the roster. The roster construction -- first carrying two utility infielders in Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino, then keeping 13 pitchers -- hasn’t allowed that to this point, and Tatum had been on the minor league disabled list. But he’s playing again, Izturis is on the major league disabled list and the Orioles have a little more roster flexibility with all these off days allowing them to use a four-man rotation. The Orioles still want young first baseman Brandon Snyder to get regular at-bats, so perhaps a logical move would be to option him back to Triple-A Norfolk, promote Tatum and use Fox in a first-base platoon with Luke Scott.

In the Kansas City series, the Orioles will face two lefties (Danny Duffy and Jeff Francis) and right-hander Luke Hochevar. Looking a little beyond that, it appears that they’ll miss Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in Oakland this weekend, which would be a nice break for them. However, they should see lefty Gio Gonzalez, who is having a terrific year. As for next week in Seattle, the Mariners have an off day Thursday, and you never know with injuries, but it looks like the Orioles are scheduled to draw Doug Fister, their old friend Erik Bedard and rookie phenom Michael Pineda. That means no Felix Hernandez or Jason Vargas, but with the way Seattle is pitching these days, I don’t know if there are any good matchups. Bedard, by the way, is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA over his past four outings.

Jason Berken’s transformation back into a starter at Norfolk will be interesting to watch. When he last was a starter, Berken went 6-12 with a 6.54 ERA in 24 starts for the Orioles in 2009. However, he doesn’t necessarily have the same repertoire he did back then. His changeup is a much better pitch than it used to be, and it could fit in well with his fastball and slider. I’m sure Friday’s demotion was tough to accept for Berken, but I think it could end up being a positive for him. I know people assume that just because he is struggling, it must be because of the labrum tear in his right shoulder. However, when I’ve watched him pitch recently, I don’t feel like I’m watching an injured pitcher. As Showalter pointed out yesterday, his velocity was between 92 and 95 mph the other night. I feel like I’m watching a guy who is having major command and confidence issues and needs time in a less pressurized environment to work things out. His starting in the minors will also give him a chance to stretch out and make adjustments.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:30 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Minors


@Jeff - Snyder seemed uncomfortable with positioning at first base. At least that's how I viewed it while sitting in the stands in the outfield. I guess he is still adjusting to playing that position in the minors and playing in the majors does not give you much time to adjust. However, that may be due to individual talent. When I see players like Melvin Mora succeed at multiple positions, I wonder if some players will never be solid when they are forced to change positions. On the other hand, Reimold looked comfortable in the batting box. Even without him hitting the homer, I saw a different look. He needs to be playing this year, I'm sure he was not as motivated to play at a high level in the minors like he is in the majors. Tillman does frustrate me, however, I do see a better delivery and some improvements. Bergensen on the other hand, may need to return to the bullpen and as I like to say. "Get the Rodrigo Lopez treatment". Maybe, spending time in the pen will force him to be better with his mechanics.

Couldn't agree with you any more on your assessment of Tillman...except to say you are seeing a bit more of the glass half full than I'm ready to admit.
To me he still pitches far too many games within a game & throws far too many pitches.
His slow & deliberate style drives everyone crazy & I've yet to see him pitch a game where he stands on the mound & gives the impression he belongs there.
Tillman must cut down on wasted pitches, long counts, falling behind virtually every hitter & the mound presence of a fawn in headlights.
I want this kid to be highly's just that I don't see him making the serious adjustments he must make to provide quality starts each time he 's handed the ball.
To me, it seems like each start is battle with him & he continues to fall back into doing the things he says after his previous start that he's overcoming.
I have my hopes...but, I have my doubts as well.

Jeff Z's reply: I think all that's fair, jack.

Re: Tillman:

It is frustrating watching him. No question. Still, don't underestimate the importance of learning to pitch out of tough situations ... although it seems like every inning Tillman is doing so.

Some numbers:

Tillman's WHIP has actually remained dismally constant in the 3 limited years he's been in the bigs.

2009: 1.554
2010: 1.528
2011: 1.552

Yet his SO/BB ratio is markedly better - indicating he has improved his command since last year. He's at a decent 1.73 in 2011, versus a horrid 1.00 last year. His HR percentage and XBH percentage have decreased, his walk percentage has decreased and his K percentage has increased. These are all indications he's maturing as a pitcher.

And isn't this ultimately what we've been pining for as fans for the last 15 years? If this team is going to compete they need to develop their young pitchers. Does anyone really want to return to the days of Kevin Millwood? Envision (since it will be happening next week) a rotation of Guthrie, Britton, Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman. The future is here, and it looks for once promising.

Enjoy reading your comments. I am not impressed with Greg but I understand what the coaches are saying. He nibbles and does not challenge hitters. His pitch repetoire is not similar but Bob Wickman who had
a good sinker always put men on base and worked his way out of selfmade jams. Gregg's curve looks very mediocre if his location is off. Why dont they give Johnson another try at closer. His stuff looks superior to Gregg's .

Jeff Z's reply: I think with Johnson, if they take him out of the role that he is in now, they are worried that they won't have too many leads get to the 9th inning.

Great summary, Jeff.

Re Kevin Gregg: You're right, but what alternative do they have? Gregg is nothing more than an ordinary reliever who doesn't mind closing. He's more durable than Uehara, who should probably be co-closer. But I don't see any reason to move him to less important innings until they get somebody better.

Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, I agree. I wasn't advocating a change there. I was just pointing out that the walks and the leadoff guys consistently getting on base comes back to bite you. The one thing about Koji is he's going to get beat throwing strikes. His blown saves are mostly the result of long balls.

Jeff, i must have been totally confused when the orioles made the bedard trade to seattle for jones ,tillman etc.When that trade was made i thought that tillman was a hard throwing prospect with velocity around 94,95 could you tell me what happened to that. This kid is 6"5 and 23 years old and he barely hits 89 90 on the gun.Did i misunderstand at the time or what happened.

Jeff on a side note you said that you don't speak for other writers at the sun so i hope you don't mind if i comment on this mornings article by kevin regarding roberts. He said the orioles can't get better until roberts gets better. Jeff once again not trying to be negative but brian is going to be 34 years old, he missed 3/4 of the season last year, he already has been out 3 different times this year and realistically hasn't done anything to speak of.I am not trying in any way to down play is injuries but how can you depend on somebody that can't slide,is afraid to steal because he might get hurt again.I keep hearing from people telling that he played in 155 games for 3 years straight and how valuable a player he is. Jeff that was in the past and as far as i know you don't get any younger or and healthier the older you get. Jeff the orioles will have to find a way to get better because you can't continue to depend on somebody that is as fragile as a china doll.that may sound cruel but it is true.

Jeff Z's reply: THat was the scouting report I heard on Tillman too. I don't think velocity is everything mind you, but it certainly allows you to get away with a few more mistakes. I truly dont' believe it's an injury thing. I think it's mechanics and a failure to repeat his delivery and I think it's a lack of confidence and conviction when he throws it. Almost like he's afraid to let it go because he's worried that it won't be a strike.

The fascination with Gregg still bothers me. I think it proves why saves are an overrated stat. I mean for this career, the guy has allowed 1.4 baserunners per inning...those are NOT successful closer numbers.

My three biggest problems with Gregg though:

1) He has solid stuff, but a lot of times it seems he goes in there and just throws, instead of actually pitching (locating stuff, trying to outthink hitters, etc.)

2) He seems to struggle so much in one-run save ops, but cruise in multi-run save ops. Just once it would be nice to see him struggle and give up two runs when he's got a three-run lead, and then cruise when he's got a one-run lead.

3) Inconsistency in his approach to hitters. In New York, the throws a get-me-over fastball to Posada that's launched for a homer. Then he puts a couple more guys on, bears down, and gets out of it. In Boston, he walks two fairly light-hitting guys (Ellsbury and Lowrie, I believe) to get to Gonzalez. And after watching Johnson strike Adrian out on two fastballs nearly in the dirt, Gregg throws him a belt high, get-me-over fastball presumeably to get ahead in the count, and Gonzalez rockets it off the monster for a game-winning hit.

Gregg has the stuff to be effective, but it seems with him it's more of a mental/focus issue in how he pitches and approaches each hitter.

Jeff, great post. Agree that Tatum will probably get called up. Interested to see Berken do some starting - him and Jim Johnson need to get consistent and anchor our bullpen for the foreseeable future.

Blancione - one good thing about a series win against the Nationals at least shows this team is capable of doing something without BRob. Last year, it seemed like they lived and died with his presence in the lineup. I think we'll be fine while he rests his troubled head.

Sidenote: can you please address the talk about Nolan Riemold's off the field issues? The MASN pregame mentioned it like 5 times yesterday, but I don't see any documentation on it anywhere.

Jeff Z's reply: Reimold left Norfolk on a couple of occasions last year to deal with a personal family matter that kind of lingered all last season.

Regarding Danny Duffy, the Rangers stole four bases off left-hander Duffy in his big league debut. He must not have Andy Pettitte's pickoff move.

Also sadly note that a tornado killed at least 89 people in Joplin, MO yesterday; Joplin only has a pop. of 50,000.

I always associated Joplin with Mickey Mantle. He played for the Joplin Miners in 1950 before called up by the Yankees in 1951. Mantle later owned a Holiday Inn in Joplin.

Jeff... while I understand your comments about giving the team a better chance to win - you totally disregarded the value of having Tillman pitch and learn not just under MLB coaches - but with Matt Wieters as his catcher in particular.

Tillman is learning how to pitch here whereas in the minors he was largely getting by on his talent. This is invaluable in terms of his future development.

I don't think you can really say that Roberts is as fragile as a china doll. His record of longevity prior to last year indicates otherwise. Remember, he came back from a truly nasty arm injury and di so far sooner than anyone thought he could.

But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if lingering concerns about his back are forcing him to adjust things and maybe he's overcompensating.

Before late last season, Roberts never had a whiff of concussion problems, but once you suffer one, they can last forever. I do agree that a 34 year-old 2B who relies on his legs is on borrowed time. Is Adams the heir apparent? Maybe for the short term. They are grooming Givens to be the 2B of the future, but he is having major difficulties. Could Schoop move over? I don't know.

As for Tillman, he is one of many young pitchers how are having inconsistency with his velocity. Tyley Scheppers, for one, was supposed to be the next Don Drysdale, yet he lost five miles from his fastball and he's remaking himself. Look at Dan Cabrera, 98 one year, 92 the next. They played around with that guy so much, he totally lost his mechanics.

I think what we're seeing right now with Tillman is a guy having trouble adjusting to his different stuff. Where he could rely on his stuff to get out AAA hitters, he needs to change his way of thinking in the bigs. We all heard about his new cutter, but so far, it seems he is reluctant to use it. When he gets more comfortable, maybe we'll see the cutter and his effective change-up. No matter what, though, he needs to locate that fastball much better.

People all say Jim Johnson has starter's stuff, but it seems Tillman is somewhat limited. Maybe pulling a Berken/Hernandez with Tillman and letting him throw one or two innings at a time when he can just rear back and throw might work. I doubt that's even been considered.

Whatever he's doing, though, you'd have to say one ER in his last ten innings is promising.

Hey Jeff ... Anything on the trade front to perhaps fix the bullpen a bit??

Jeff Z's reply: No, not a whole lot of teams are interested in trading serviceable relief pitching at this point of the season.

I too have been personally tough on TIllman. I keep trying to remind myself that he's only 23, which means, he would be about the same age that Matusz was when he first got called up. That said, in spite of quality stuff, Tillman has never really shown above-average command at any level. He's gotten great results in the minors from the quality of his stuff, which shouldn't be ignored. In fairness, his command is probably partly due to such a promising young arm being promoted so aggressively, which shouldn't be held against him. So, it's not reasonable to expect that he's just going to have good command once he hits the majors. It was likely going to get worse (due to stronger competition) before it gets better. So, as aggravating as it might be, we're really just seeing what we should have expected all along.

That said, I think it's not damning as long as the general path is upward.

Two problems with Tatum - he can't hit, and he's not that good defensively (particularly throwing.)

If Gregg is going to remain the closer, he needs some kind of sinker to induce ground ball DPs to get out of the jams he nearly always gets himself into. His nibbling is ridiculous. We were lucky yesterday that his last pitch found the strike zone, otherwise we're again looking at first and second with one out after two walks. Closers have to throw strikes.

Tillman needs to channel Ray Miller - "Work fast, change speeds, throw strikes." Good advice..

@blancione - I heard ESPN's Keith Law on 105.7 last week and Garceau (I think) asked him about Tillman then-and-now. Law said that Tillman is not the same pitcher that he saw pitch at the age of 19 or 20. He said Chris was throwing 95-96 back then and now throws consistently in the upper 80's. Law said that, in HIS experience covering MLB, that spells shoulder problems. He said that mechanics can usually only make a 1-2 mph difference. But when the speed drops as far as Tillman's has, it usually spells injury. Just throwing this out as info.

A couple of comments:

I agree with Buck that Tillman has nothing more to prove in the minors. But where is the pitching coach in his major league development? Isn't it Mark Connors role to help him make the major league adjustments?

Second, I find it incomprehensible that the Orioles can not find one pitcher in the 7 or 8 bullpen spots that can go more than 2 innings! Most can only go one... wouldn't it be easier for a pitcher to go 2 to 3 innings every three days rather than one inning every day. You only need to warm up once! Trotting out Johnson, Koji, Accardo, and Gregg to pitch 4 innings seems crazy.

Lastly, I think the closer role is overrated as well. If you are facing the heart of the line up (1 through 5) in the 8th inning, I would rather bring my best reliever in then and then have my second best face the tail end of the line up.

Food for thought....

Jeff Z's reply: Connor has been working with Tillman for like 3 months. You can't expect it to happen overnight. And the Orioles do have relievers capable of going 2 innings. Johnson and Accardo have done it plenty of times. Koji once or twice. That's just how Showalter chose to line up the bullpen yesterday. I think a big part of his decision making was today's off day. That kind of gave him the green light to go with his best guys because he knew they wouldn't be needed today.


The key to being a good starter is changing speeds, throwing hitters off balance. Maybe we're selling Tillman's methods short.

Throwing fastballs are different speeds from inning to inning has got to be difficult for hitters and Tillman this year has shown the ability to get people out when runners are on base, basically when the game is on the line.

While it's frustrating to watch and probably drives Showalter nuts, it really is pitching instead of throwing. His off speed stuff is excellent and can easily compensate for an 89-90 fastball.

The fact that he can amp it up to 92-94 on occasion means he has something to fall back on if he needs it.

The velocity concerns me, as does the high pitch count to get through 5 innings in just about every start, but Tillman is starting to look like a big league pitcher to me. This year is the first time that I actually see that Chris COULD be a reliable starter if he's able to work on some things. No question that the kid isn't afraid of pressure which would make him a hell of a closer, but if he could finish off hitters when he gets ahead, he has a future.


I am not saying you are advocating for JJ to move to the closer role, but what would be the harm of the O's using JJ, Koji and Gregg in the closers role depending on the lineup? I get the creature of habbits thing, but I perosnally think Gregg could be a great setup man. I guess I just don't see the harm with shaking things up a bit plus I think we all know Kevin wants to close out games, so maybe it would push him to perform better?

I am not a big fan of Keith Law! I think he's a bloviating fool! I’d like to know when he watched Tillman pitch since was with the Mariner Organization when he was 18/19. When exactly was he in the area, since Keith is an east coast guy? Also, wasn’t it that Keith Law said that Vlad G was toast or in the toaster. Umm after yesterday, can anyone really say that? Plus, he (Vlad) would have been everyone’s hero had the O’s beaten the Yankees. His sacrifice fly was a very nice piece of hitting. The man still has gas in the tank, batting over .300 and going to the Hall of Fame.

Also, yesterday before I went to work, I saw Mark Reynolds slug a double to right center. I think his swing might just be coming together. I see some light at the end of the tunnel for him finally. Let’s see if he can keep it up! The problem with Mark is he’s not Mike Schmidt. Schmidt used to be able bare hand the ball and fire it to first; in fact he was probable one of the best ever in doing that. The harder the ball is hit Mark can field it, his problems seem to lie with little dribblers and weakly thrown balls, maybe it’s a lack of concentration. I don’t know. Now back to his swing, the bottom line is, if he can swing the bat like he did with that double yesterday. You will see Reynolds Batting average soar. If he can’t do it, then .193 it will be!

Finally, to get back to Tillman, I like him. I have always liked him! I think you can compare him to Jeremy Hellickson. Tillman has the same exact stuff; in fact I think if Tillman can cut down on his extra pitches, then I think he could even be better. That’s my opinion and I am sticking to it!

I would have liked to see them bring Koji back out for the ninth. He was pitching well, and only threw like 10 pitchers.

Given that he can't pitch daily, they should use him more like they used Tippy in the 80s (and yes I know the game has changed, but you use what you have). Let him throw 25-40 pitches in the highest pressure situation of the game. He's by far the best reliever on the team. Johnson is the only other one above average. Then they can use Gregg on the other days and for the one inning "easy" saves (4-1 at the start of the ninth). Gregg is an average reliever, who as someone noted above, seems able to withstand some of the stress of being a closer -- which is not a bad thing to be.

Arrieta is night-and-day compared to last season, especially with his secondary pitches and command: this gives me hope for Tillman (although Tillman doesn't have Jake's fastball). I certainly think the Orioles should keep him in the rotation as long as they can. It might cost them a few wins this year, but could add to wins next year and beyond.

As for Gregg, I wish that he was a set-up man and that we could have a closer-by-committee situation, with Uehara as the main guy (his fragility would mean that others would have to spell him). Koji's certainly better than Gregg, and I suspect Johnson is too.

I agree with other posters regarding Tatum's so-so glove (didn't we just acquire a AAA catcher from the NL? Why not him?), as well as Reynolds's weakness when coming in on the ball. He handles hard stuff when hitting, hard stuff when fielding. It's the junk that perplexes him no matter where he is.

Personally, my sentiments toward Kevin Gregg have warmed recently. I think he has very good stuff and his ball moves around a lot. Palmer loves to reference the "Captain Chaos" moniker about 10 times everytime he pitches (classic Palmer), and seems to indicate that letting guys get on base to start the inning is part of Gregg's sinister plan. The thing about Kevin Gregg is that he appears to have the nerves of iron and a closer's mentality and Jim Johnson doesn't have that. Johnson failed MISERABLY as a closer two years ago. I think Gregg is our closer for the year and he is pretty much doing what management expected him to do when they signed him.

Regarding the blancione post, I want to say that I agree with his remarks about Kevin Cowherd's article. Brian Roberts is no longer the big difference maker on this club that he once was. It will be interesting to see what this team will do in his absence. This year's team has more veteran leadership and Brian Roberts is not the same player anymore.

I don't think Keith Law ever said Tillman worked in the mid to upper 90's. His write up of Tillman during his 20 year old season, when he had him ranked as the 40th best prospect in baseball, reads like this:

"He really looks the part of a front-of-the-rotation big-league pitcher -- 6-5, 200 pounds, wiry-strong with room to fill out. He's still working out a few kinks on the mound, but the present package is promising. He'll reach 93 with his fastball and sit 90-91, but can add and subtract with it, and gets good life and tail on the pitch. He has a sharp out-pitch curveball with great depth; it looks harder than 74-77 mph, but that is its velocity, buoyed by the tight rotation Tillman gets on the pitch. His changeup has good tumble, but he doesn't have great feel for it, and overall his command is below average."

This was from Law's Top 100 write up before the 2009 season. So now he sits 88-90. Not that big a drop. If he has lost a MPH or two to try to improve his control (which he seems to be doing by looking at his BB rate), so be it. He's 32 starts into his career, the equivalent of 1 full season. Didn't we learn from Wieters and Jones that we shouldn't judge after only 1 year and that players can improve with time?

1. Saves are overrate. They could redo the rule and make them relevant but they seem to be afraid of the agents.

2. Tillman, like the entire staff (except for Koji and when Bergesen is on) are EXTREMELY inefficient with pitch count. The bullpen has to carry a much larger load than they should. Guthrie is an example of that. Giving up 1 run, no runs in another start and being removed after 6 or 7 innings shouldn't happen.

3. They really need to do something with Gonzalez. The money excuse isn't valid. He is in the last year of the contract and already is 25% over. Sure you may eat the remaining $4M or so but if you replace him with someone earning the ML minimum it will only add another $500K or so.

4. The lack of guys who get on base is a GLARING issue for the Orioles and becomes more apparent every time Roberts is hurt (which is too often). Pie, Andino, etc. should never be leading off.

5. Adams needs to play more. At least give him a week to see how he handles it. I just don't see Andino being that effective, offensively or defensively.

When a player gets sent down (like Berken) do they get a pay cut since they're going from the major league roster to the minors?

Jeff Z's reply: Depending on how the contract is worked out, but usually there is a minor league and major league rate.

Just for clarity, I said that I can't believe they don't have a reliever that can go MORE than 2 innings.... not just two innings... every other team we have faced this year has had a reliever come in and pitch for 3 or 4 innings...

Come on Jeff, Tillman has given up one run in his last two starts! He pitches effectively with runners on base (perhaps based on all that experience he's been having!). I'd love to see him throw fewer pitches but that seems to be a problem many young pitchers have to work through. Why the complaining when the guy is keeping the score close? Sheesh.

Jeff Z's reply: That wasn't meant to complain about him. That was meant to say that I think he's making progress and should remain in the rotation.


It appears to me that Tillman sort of falls back toward the mound instead of following through on his motion at times. This surely would affect velocity.
Has anyone who matters noticed this?


Jeff Z's reply: Yes, pitching coach Mark Connor does some really interesting drills with him that are aimed at getting Tillman to pitch more downhill and keep his shoulder in rather than bailing. You see them out in the outfield together all the time and it's interesting to watch. Tillman has gotten a little better but he still has trouble maintaining his proper delivery during the game.

Very interesting discussion regarding Tillman, Jeff. What troubles me is the combination of observations that you have made, the upshot of which is that, whether it's mechanics, confidence, mental toughness, whatever, Tillman has problems commanding / locating his pitches, particularly his fastball. Call me old school on all this, but it's my sense that the American League East is not the place to be learning, precisely because, as you said, your job as pitcher is to give your team a chance to win everytime out. I don't see Tillman doing that. To me, five innings comprising 95-100 pitches is not giving your team a chance, because even if your team wins the game, your short outing may have compromised the bullpen for the next couple of days. If Tillman cannot consistently pitch seven innings at a minimum, giving up no more than 3 runs, it seems that he's a weak link in the rotation. Send him to Norfolk with one instruction: You will throw your fastball 95% of the time and you will learn to locate it. Leave him there for 3 months and confirm that he's learning his craft. If he can locate his fastball with consistency, bring him back. If not, cut your losses. I just don't think he's a major league pitcher at this point, and I don't see that he understands what he's doing and what he needs to correct. This is not supposed to be OJT.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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