What exactly is wrong with Chris Tillman’s shoulder is still not known publicly, but one thing we do know is that the Orioles starter received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder on Wednesday. The earlier hoped-for return date of April 15, looking doubtful after yesterday, is now certainly out.
When Tillman will be back is still a mystery as well. In his post-game remarks to reporters following the O’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates, manager Buck Showalter addressed the Tillman situation in general terms, sounding as optimistic as he has done so far even as reality continues to give him no reason to be optimistic:
“We’re in good shape there. I know they’re encouraged where he is and how he’s feeling right now. So, we’ll see in a couple days how he feels if he can get back on the bump.”
I am not a professional doctor, trainer, or manager of baseball players, but I don’t think I would be very encouraged with someone who was feeling bad enough that they need the cortisone shot.
In essence, nothing that happens today really matters. It’ll be a waiting game of a couple of days to see if Tillman is actually back on the mound and throwing by Friday or Saturday. If he does, then the Orioles can start to game out exactly when he’ll be able to be back and how many starts in the regular season he might miss.
The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina suggested yesterday that a cortisone injection for Tillman would leave him with a hoped-for return date of early May, if there ended up being no further setbacks.
Prior to the game, Showalter said of the cortisone shot, “We think we’ve increased our chances of getting him back on the hill.” It is the latest in his series of not-very-encouraging statements. Perhaps he’s just wanting to set a very low bar, but when you’ve got to set a bar that low, that’s worrisome in and of itself.
This is the second year in a row where the Orioles have had one of their projected Opening Day starters need a cortisone injection in spring training. Last season, Kevin Gausman received a cortisone injection on March 20 and ended up pitching his first regular season game on April 25.
Gausman’s problem was more clearly identified as being tendinitis. Significantly for Gausman, he did not arrive in camp with the shoulder problem already having him on the shelf. Last spring, Gausman made two starts before the tendinitis became a problem.
If Tillman is able to work back on the same timetable, which is by no means a certainty since Tillman’s shoulder problem was serious enough to require an offseason platelet-rich plasma injection, he’d only be looking about one start farther than the original guess of April 15. We’ll see how that’s looking if he actually ends up on a mound again by the end of the week.