The Washington Times - July 27, 2009, 11:55PM

By JAY LeBLANC

The Baltimore Orioles did everything they could to exercise extreme patience with top prospect Chris Tillman. They resisted the urge to promote him last year despite his 11-4 record, 3.18 ERA and 10.22 strikeouts per nine innings in Double-A. They declined to turn to the 21-year-old righty earlier this season even after he got off to a 5-0 start in Triple-A while the big league rotation scuffled, and held firm in recent weeks as Orioles fans clamored for a call-up. The wait - which seemed a lot longer than it actually was, thanks in part to Rich Hill and Jason Berken - is over.

After going 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 18 starts for the Norfolk Tides, Tillman is set to make his Major League debut Wednesday night at Camden Yards against All-Star Zack Greinke and the Kansas City Royals. The 6-foot-5 fireballer, who was recently ranked by Baseball America as the eighth-best prospect in baseball, has shown improved command this season and was clearly in need of a greater challenge than International League hitters were offering. With the Orioles out of contention, he’ll have the opportunity to get his feet wet in a low-pressure environment.

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As Tillman prepares to remind Seattle Mariners fans just how badly their team got fleeced in the Erik Bedard trade, let’s take a look back at where his head was at last July while he was busy dominating the Eastern League as a member of the Bowie Baysox.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned you’d been traded to Baltimore in the Erik Bedard deal?

A: I didn’t really know what to think at first - it was kind of a drawn-out process and it seemed like it took forever. I felt honored because I know how good of a player Erik Bedard is. I know I speak for all the players that came over - we’re all pretty excited to be here.

Q: You struggled at times last season in advanced Class A but you’ve been outstanding this year as one of the youngest players in double-A. What kinds of adjustments did you make?

A: I haven’t really made any adjustments - just trusting my stuff, and everything’s coming together really well. I’ve been coming out on top lately.

Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?

A: I throw a fastball that I throw 90 percent of the time. I throw a curveball sometimes early in the count, most of the time late in the count, and a change-up every now and then. That’s about it.

Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you’ve tried to model your approach after?

A: No. My favorite player growing up was Roger Clemens, but I didn’t really model my approach after him.

Q: What are some of the things you’re trying to work on this season?

A: Just fastball command - command of all my pitches, but mostly my fastball command.

Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Orioles?

A: That’s not up to me. I feel like I’m ready whenever they need me, because that’s my job. I can’t really tell you when - it is what it is, and it’s up to them, not up to me.

Q: Do you feel like there are still some things lacking in your game, or do you feel like you’re close to ready?

A: I feel like I’m close to ready, but I still have to work on a couple more things, and that’s about it.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.

 

Click here to view the original Chris Tillman National Pastime Prospect Q&A