The Orioles have had one good starting pitcher who’s been in the rotation all year. That pitcher is Chris Tillman, who was even lurking on the fringes of the Cy Young discussion a few weeks ago. That’s all over with now and instead it’s time to hit the panic button, then duck under our collective desks while waiting for the baseball fan equivalent of nuclear annihilation.
OK, that probably sounds dramatic, but there’s more news about Tillman’s shoulder on Tuesday and the news is not good. You may recall that Tillman was originally supposed to start a game in last week’s series against the Red Sox, but he was pushed back to Saturday to give his shoulder extra rest.
The Saturday game went horribly for Tillman, as he was lit up for six runs in only two innings of work. His command was a particular problem - he managed to walk five batters out of the 17 he faced before being unceremoniously yanked.
Tillman is currently scheduled to make the Thursday start against the Nationals. However, manager Buck Showalter had this to say during his pre-game remarks to Orioles media:
Buck said Tillman's work day today didn't go well. Shoulder still likely an issue. #Orioles to make decision tmrw whether he can start Thurs— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) August 23, 2016
What exactly “didn’t go well” is not something Showalter discussed. Another reporter from The Sun, Jon Meoli, noted that Showalter “didn’t like what he heard from pitching coaches” and that Tillman will be examined by a doctor. Never pitch!
If Tillman has to go on the shelf for any length of time, or if he keeps pitching through it but is clearly not at his best, the Orioles are going to be in trouble. Not that pitcher wins tell us a whole lot but it’s not an accident that Tillman has won 15 games this season. He’s been the only starter to consistently pitch well. They will face an uphill battle without him.
Maybe by some stroke of good fortune, everything will turn out OK in both the short term and the long term. That could mean either Tillman being able to pitch after a few more days of rest and looking like the best version of himself, or some kind of heroic Joe Saunders-like fill-in stint from a pitcher like Vance Worley.
In short, hold on to your butts.