Tillman: 'I feel good right now,' won't rush back

Tillman: 'I feel good right now,' won't rush back

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his shoulder in late December, said Wednesday morning that he's fairly confident he won't miss much regular-season time.

"It's feeling strong, it's feeling better, but you've got to do it right," said Tillman, who was plagued by the same inflammation in the second half of last season. "I don't want to do it wrong and just say, 'I'm going to go out there. I'm feeling better.' I want to do it the right way and get it behind us. That way, it's not an issue going forward."

Tillman pitched through a similar issue last August, hitting the disabled list just briefly, but when he went to pick up a ball this offseason, he still didn't feel good. He reached out to the team's training staff and got the PRP injection, which shut him down completely for several weeks after that and makes it possible he will open the season on the disabled list.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that Tillman probably won't be a candidate for Opening Day, which he's pitched the past three seasons.

"I think it's always a disappointment, but I kind of have a good feeling for where this thing is at right now, and I think …wanting to do it right," Tillman said. "I wouldn't be hugely disappointed [not being the Opening Day starter] at this point, because I want to do it the right way.

As for whether the shoulder was the reason he only went 4 1/3 innings in the American League Wild Card Game last year, Tillman said: "I don't think it was any secret. I went on the DL early [on in the injury]. I wasn't feeling 100 percent but I was feeling good enough to pitch. I think some of it was strategy. The back end of the bullpen is really good. We have a lot of freakin' good guys out there. Excuse my language. But we've got a good bullpen and you've got to go with what you've done all year, and that's pretty much what we did. That's our best team."

Tillman isn't sure of his exact rehab dates, though Showalter said the righty wouldn't face hitters until mid-March. Tillman has had four or five catch sessions and he will continue that and a long-toss progression.

"I've been throwing here recently, and I'm going to throw again today," Tillman said. "It's been feeling real good throwing, and it's getting stronger, and it's feeling better every day. I haven't really felt it much. It's definitely much, much better than when I was sitting at home not doing much."

This is a particularly big season for the 28-year-old Tillman, who went 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts in 2016 and will a free agent at the end of the year.

"I think [the need to be cautious] goes with any injury," Tillman said. "There's a lot of hurdles to get over. I think most of them are mental. To get past that, is part of -- I've talked to many doctors in the last couple months and they are all optimistic and all positive. I think it's getting past the hurdles. And if there's a setback, there is. But like I said, I want to do it right. I'm not going to rush out there just to get out there and have two more starts. I feel good right now."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.