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Tillman looking like Saturday's starter

Tillman looking like Saturday's starter

DETROIT -- The Orioles don't have to make a roster move until Saturday, but it appears that Triple-A Norfolk's Chris Tillman will make that evening's start in Texas, with rookie third baseman Josh Bell the logical choice to be optioned back to Norfolk.

Given the Orioles' overused bullpen -- which covered seven innings on Monday -- using Mark Hendrickson to spot start would leave only one long man, Jason Berken, for a four-game set against a lethal Rangers lineup.

"It makes sense," O's pitching coach Rick Kranitz said of recalling Tillman, who is already on track to start Saturday in Norfolk. "We need some length in the bullpen is what we need. We pushed Berken and [David] Hernandez back, to the end of the game, and if Hendrickson then becomes a starter, we don't have a lot of length. It makes more sense that he would come up and pitch for us."

In three starts since he was optioned back, Tillman is 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA and has allowed just 10 hits and five walks, while striking out 13 in 21 2/3 innings. While the 22-year-old Tillman has struggled to translate his success to the big leagues -- going 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in four starts this season -- Kranitz thinks it's only a matter of time before he makes the adjustments.

"I think the experience is invaluable," Kranitz said of bringing up young guys like current O's starter Jake Arrieta and Tillman, rather than letting them dominate for Norfolk. "Obviously you don't want them to get beat up [in the Majors] but you got to be a tough guy up here.

"I've seen it before, guys will go down [to Triple-A] and pitch pretty well and come up and maybe scuffle a little bit. But that's part of the process. [Tillman] will put it together, it's just a matter of time. Sooner or later, he's going to come up here and its going to click. And he will say, 'OK, I don't have to give these guys as much credit as I have.'"

Kranitz acknowledged that it's common for young guys like Tillman -- who was tasked with working on his cutter and command this spring -- to get to the Majors and revert back to what they think works best. Such was the case with Tillman earlier this season, as he stayed away from throwing his cut fastball and had trouble reaching his regular velocity in the first inning of the game, showcasing an alarming flat 90-mph fastball in June 14's start in San Francisco.

"He still needs to get his first three pitches over, which are all quality," Kranitz said of Tillman, who has been experiencing with different grips to get some more movement. "A lot of times, all of a sudden, you get to the big leagues, and you're used to throwing a certain way [in Triple-A] and you don't know when to throw [the cutter]. I look at it and he throws it sparingly now. And then next year he will have a much better grasp of it [and] when to throw it."

If Baltimore does recall Tillman, optioning back Bell over struggling reliever Frank Mata makes sense, given that Mata is a rested arm who likely won't be used in close situations. The O's have Mata for multiple innings in the event one of the four games against the Rangers gets out of hand.

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