LAKELAND, Fla. -- Prior to Monday's game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked how he thought Chris Tillman would follow up his poor 2018 Grapefruit League debut.
"I have confidence that the results will get better," Showalter said. "He feels good physically. Just hoping today is the start of that."
By all accounts it was, as Tillman -- who walked six over two innings in his first start -- kept the Tigers at bay over five frames of one-run ball in the O's 4-2 win.
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The righty didn't issue a walk against a lineup of Detroit's regular starters, scattering six hits in the 78-pitch outing.
"It was better, much better," said Tillman, who last time out threw just 27 of 62 pitches for strikes and gave up four runs. "I was able to use all my pitches when I needed for the most part. I felt like everything got better towards the end. Fastball command was much better, had some quick innings and had some innings where I had to work."
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Tillman, who auditioned for the Tigers shortly before signing a one-year Major League deal with the Orioles last month, used a fastball that sat in the low 90s and showed much better command to navigate through the lineup. Following a 21-pitch first inning that saw him work around a pair of singles, Tillman needed just 10 pitches in a 1-2-3 second.
"You see they had a shot at him early, and [when] you see some guys just missing fastballs up, four-seamers, it usually means that he's got a little extra," Showalter said of Tillman. "He threw a lot of pitches 92, 93 [mph] today. That was good to see."
Even in the third inning, Tillman -- who surrendered an RBI double to Jeimer Candelario -- stayed in his groove. He held the Tigers' middle-of-the-order bats (Nos. 3-5) hitless and joked that even when he was trying to pitch around guys they got themselves out.
"Which is good because otherwise we'd be talking about my walks," Tillman said with a grin.
In all seriousness, the righty knows that spring results are important for him. Tillman went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 24 games (19 starts) last season and is eager to prove that 2017 was an anomaly.
"This close to the season, yeah. I think you want to see some results," Tillman said of his spring stats. "Especially moreso for the staff and your teammates. They don't want to go into the season, seeing you roll in there and give it up. It was good. It's good to get out there and get five [innings] under me. Felt good."
Tillman is slated to get one more start this weekend against the Twins as a final tuneup for the regular season. He'll look to build on Monday's outing.
"I think that's important. You always want to see results. But I think it's the process that counts," he said. "We've still got a long way to go. There are a lot of things I could have done better today and I'll look forward to doing that next time."