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Just how inevitable is Chris Tillman’s return to the Orioles?

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Thinking about it doesn’t give me a good feeling in my stomach, either. If it happens, let’s all hope really hard that 2017 is just a bygone, abysmal abomination.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Before anybody panics, and before there are comments in caps lock decrying the proposed notion of Chris Tillman returning to the 2018 Orioles, know that there is nothing solid in the baseball media claiming that the Birds even have interest. Take a deep breath.

While you’re taking that breath, here is a quick snippet of what the beat writers have said about the idea of a Tillman-Orioles reunion over the course of the last few weeks:

  • January 2, 2018: Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun writes, “If the Orioles are looking for reclamation projects or innings-eaters and want to reduce the risk in adjusting to their program or the division, they don’t need to look much further than Chris Tillman...
  • January 2, 2018: Meoli also writes writes, “It’s unclear if either side is still interested in a reunion, but the longer the Orioles need pitchers and Tillman needs a team, the more enticing that will become.
  • January 5, 2018: Meoli writes, “They could even dip into the pool of known quantities for someone like Chris Tillman or Miguel González [whoops], who might be available on incentive-laden contracts to rebuild their value.”
  • January 8, 2018: Meoli writes, “As spring training looms and the Orioles roster remains in a state of flux, the idea of the familiar is starting to appeal to Showalter. He expressed interest in reunions with outfielder Craig Gentry and right-hander Chris Tillman, both of whom remain free agents. Tillman, who lives in Sarasota and has been working out at the team’s facility...
  • January 11, 2018: Rich Dubroff of Pressbox writes, “ The Orioles will consider a number of pitchers as possible starters ... There are many other contenders. One is Chris Tillman, who was around the facility this week, working in the weight room and fishing in the pond. Tillman lives in Sarasota, and the Orioles, who maintain interest in him, have allowed him to use the facility.”
  • January 12, 2018: Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun writes, “But according to industry sources, there are several free-agent starting pitchers still waiting to receive their first offer, which is somewhat astonishing considering how late in the offseason we are. But it offers the Orioles some opportunity to be proactive again. If they are serious about a reunion with Chris Tillman – hoping he can return to some form of the pitcher who ... [didn’t suck].”
  • January 18, 2018: Roch Kubatko of MASN’s School of Roch writes, “The Orioles maintain interest in free agent pitcher Chris Tillman and Showalter spoke to the right-hander during minicamp in Sarasota.”
  • January 20, 2018: Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun writes, “Chris Tillman is a free agent [and] ... is not out of the question.”

Tillman’s 2017 season left such a sour taste in the fans’ collective mouths that the idea of him coming back on a free agent contract in 2018 was laughable... at first.

Now this idea seems to be picking up a lot of steam in January, and why not at this point? I have to admit that there is no excuse for his 2017 season besides perhaps injury that never worked itself out.

On August 21, 2016, Tillman hit the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder (the one that he throws baseballs with). He has been reported to have right shoulder “discomfort” and right shoulder “soreness” several times since then.

The lingering injury kept him from making his first MLB of 2017 until May 7th, and it was never pretty for the entire season. Tillman bounced from the DL to the rotation to the bullpen and back in a year that saw him post a combined 7.84 ERA across 93 IP.

What if the 2009-2016 Orioles rotation stalwart never quite felt right in 2017, and is healthy heading into 2018? The dearth of starting pitching presently in Baltimore/Sarasota certainly could be the catalyst for wishful thinking here, but with a documented injury, one doesn’t have to squint too hard to see a guy who could return to his dependable, league-average form.

After all, we are talking about the same pitcher who was an All-Star in 2016 after starting the season 12-2 with a 3.41 ERA, striking out 98 batters across 113.1 IP.

The other side of that coin is that there are nearly zero signs that Chris Tillman suffered from bad luck last year insofar as his pitching results (he walked more batters, he struck out less, and opposing players smacked the crap out of the ball when they made contact...which was a lot).

While the chance of a resurgent Tillman is nonzero, the question really becomes was his 2017 season 100% attributable to injuries that may now be behind him?

What do you think? Would you like to see Tilly suit up for the Birds again in 2018? Do you think he will be on the squad even if you would give your right shoulder (ha) for him to sign elsewhere?

Let’s hear it in the comments.