Chris Tillman was the Orioles' best starter last year, but that didn't mean he was guaranteed to pitch the first game of the season for them. After the high-profile addition of Ubaldo Jimenez in free agency, there was reason to wonder whether he might get elevated to the number one starter position ahead of Tillman.
Rain in Florida on Monday has washed out the chance of any game action. There is still Orioles news to be found: Manager Buck Showalter announced that Tillman would be the Opening Day starter, with Jimenez the starter in the second game.
Last year's Opening Day starter was Jason Hammel and the year before that it was Jake Arrieta. Man, the Orioles won 93 games in a season where the first game was started by Arrieta. Baseball is weird. Hammel didn't acquit himself particularly well in the season where he was the number one starter either, so hopefully recent history is not going to be any kind of guide for Tillman's performance.
He will be the fifth different Opening Day starter in the last five years, as well as the youngest Opening Day starter for the team since Mike Mussina took the mound in 1994. He'll be 26 on April 15.
Tillman pitched a career-high 206.1 innings in the 2013 season, pitching well enough in the first half that he even ended up on the All-Star team. Sure, it was a ridiculous choice, probably because he'd won 11 games by then, but who's counting? He ended up with a respectable 3.71 ERA on the season, with batters hitting .241/.303/.427 against him.
He gave up home runs like they were going out of style, but so did every Orioles starter. If they'd all performed as well as Tillman, the 2013 team would have ended up in a much better place than they actually did. By naming him the Opening Day starter, the O's are both acknowledging his accomplishment from last season and hoping that he will come close to duplicating it this season.
This is the best choice. It's not farfetched that Jimenez could outperform Tillman on the season, but Tillman is the guy with the Orioles tenure and recent track record of performance. He should get the ball in the first game. Hopefully he'll even pitch well and give the O's a chance to win as they kick off the season against Boston.
Are you happy with Tillman as the Opening Day starter? How do you think the rest of the rotation will shake out based on what we've seen so far this spring?