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Tillman wild in spring debut, walks 6

Righty shows rust in first outing, but encouraged by soft contact allowed
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his first Grapefruit League start, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was hoping for an outing that would help him forget his rough 2017 season. Instead, his performance was a reminder of what he'll need to improve on to help the Orioles in 2018.

Tillman struggled, walking six batters and allowing four runs in two-plus innings in the Orioles' 7-5 win over to the Twins on Tuesday. Manager Buck Showalter removed Tillman after he issued a bases-loaded walk to Jorge Polanco in the third. He allowed three hits and struck out one.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his first Grapefruit League start, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was hoping for an outing that would help him forget his rough 2017 season. Instead, his performance was a reminder of what he'll need to improve on to help the Orioles in 2018.

Tillman struggled, walking six batters and allowing four runs in two-plus innings in the Orioles' 7-5 win over to the Twins on Tuesday. Manager Buck Showalter removed Tillman after he issued a bases-loaded walk to Jorge Polanco in the third. He allowed three hits and struck out one.

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"I didn't really feel like I was fighting anything," Tillman said. "I had a lot of misses down below the zone. It wasn't in and out or arm side or glove side.

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"It was north and south, which you'd think would be an easy adjustment, but [I] kept missing down, which, when it's down, they're going to take more as opposed to when it's elevated. I felt like there were a lot of guys who were waiting to see the ball up and when they didn't, more times than not, [they] took it."

A year ago, Tillman didn't have a Spring Training at all. Sidelined with a sore right shoulder, he missed the first month of the season, and was uncharacteristically ineffective with a 1-7 record and 7.84 ERA. Despite that, the Orioles wanted him back, and on Feb. 21 Tillman signed a one-year, $3 million with lots of incentives.

Due to his relatively late start, Showalter held him back, instead opting to pitch Tillman in two simulated games before Tuesday's debut.

"Regardless of what happens today, he's ahead of where he was by a large margin," Showalter said before the game.

Showalter is an admirer of Tillman, and he allowed the year-round Sarasota resident to work out at the Orioles' complex before Spring Training, even though the team hadn't yet signed him.

"As much as any pitcher we have, he's a pitcher of routine," Showalter said. "Take them out of routine, and you're going to pay the price. It was like he was trying to stop a snowball all year."

Tillman is aware that he's going to have to be better.

"Every time I go out, I want to do good," Tillman said. "Especially this late in spring. I know it's my first one, and everyone says, 'Oh, I'm out there working on stuff.' That's the problem with starting this late in spring. You've got to go out trying to win."

Tillman's next start should be against the Mets on Sunday, and he's going to try and build on the few things he liked about this start.

"When they did swing, there was a lot of soft contact, which is, I guess, the positive I'm going to take away from this. A lot of soft contact, but I've just got to get them to do that more, as opposed to taking in the bottom of the zone, which isn't me," Tillman said.

Showalter said he wasn't drawing any conclusions from the outing.

"I don't find it encouraging or discouraging," he said. "I don't really find it anything at this point."

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Orioles on Tuesday.

Baltimore Orioles, Chris Tillman