Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Demotion of Chris Tillman: Only UnTILL He's Ready

Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman, 21, lost out to David Hernandez, 25, for the fifth spot in the Baltimore Orioles opening day rotation. Tillman was long thought to be the leader for the spot because of his youth and rank as one of the best young prospects in the major leagues. Tillman, however, walked nine batters in 16 plus innings to earn his ticket back to the minors.

Tillman has loads of potential, but he needs to learn how to harness it. He has been working on a cutter to go along with his low-90's fastball, change-up, and 12-6 curveball repertoire. Tillman, quite frankly, just needs a little bit more seasoning. It isn't that Hernandez is a much better option; rather he is a little older and can throw his pitches for strikes more consistently than Tillman.

Hernandez throws in the mid-90's and has been haunted a bit by the long ball, but he is also a very good pitcher with men in scoring position. I was surprised that his stats with RISP didn't warrant him a spot in the bullpen as a late-inning reliever.

There was a time not so long ago when the Orioles would bring up their young pitchers because they didn't have much depth and were force feeding the young guns to the best hitters in the world (see Daniel Cabrera, Hayden Penn). Thankfully, this is not the case anymore or Tillman would be working his struggles out in the majors. I predict that Tillman will be back within a month or two at the latest, and he will supplant either Hernandez or veteran Jeremy Guthrie for a spot in the rotation. The minor leagues is where a young pitcher can gain confidence and work on his game, and I believe Tillman will come back even better. If he can add the cutter to his other pitchers, which would create more ground balls and set up other pitches, then he will be very successful for many years.

It was a wise decision for the O's to send Tillman down and let Hernandez start the season with the big club.

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