In a move that will surprise no one, Chris Tillman has been tabbed the Opening Day starter for Buck Showalter‘s Orioles for the second consecutive season. Tillman has set himself apart in the Orioles rotation the past three seasons with a 38-16 record and 3.42 ERA since joining the Orioles rotation full-time in the second half of the 2012 season. Tillman will take the ball in Toronto against a Blue Jays team that he went 1-3 with a 4.74 ERA against last season.
In last season’s Opening Day start against the Red Sox, Tillman pitched five innings and allowed only one earned run. He earned a no-decision in the Orioles’ 2-1 win, with Nelson Cruz‘s solo home run proving the winning margin. With this second consecutive Opening Day start, Tillman becomes the first Orioles pitcher to start consecutive Opening Day games since Jeremy Guthrie in 2008 and 2009.
Tillman will have one final Spring Training tune-up against the Pirates on Wednesday night. So far this spring, Tillman has looked every bit the ace he was during the second half of last season when he went 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA. He has pitched to a 2.38 ERA this spring with ten strikeouts against only two walks in 11.1 innings pitched.
The 2015 season will be a big one for Tillman and the Orioles as the pitcher nears free agency. In his first season of arbitration eligibility, Tillman received a hefty raise, all the way to $4.32 million from $546,000. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun has reported that Tillman and the Orioles are engaged in dialogue regarding an extension, although no terms have been discussed publicly at this time.
The Orioles’ rotation following Tillman has not yet been announced, although Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez are likely to follow in some order. Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman appear locked in a battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Orioles management giving very few hints on the status of either pitcher. Jimenez has pitched very well in his past three outings after struggling early this spring with revamped mechanics. Gausman gets the ball this afternoon against the Rays.