By JAY LeBLANC
July 14, 2008
If it isn’t already obvious that the Baltimore Orioles got the better of the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Bedard deal, it will be soon enough. Bedard is having a decent year in Seattle, but he hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant as he was in 2007 and the M’s are languishing in last place. Meanwhile, George Sherrill has 28 saves and represented the Orioles at the All-Star Game, Adam Jones is playing a solid center field and beginning to figure out big league pitching, and pitching prospects Chris Tillman and Tony Butler are making good progress down on the farm.
The Orioles had lofty expectations for Tillman - a 2006 second-round pick of the Mariners who was ranked by Baseball America as the team’s No. 3 prospect - when they acquired him, but he’s far exceeded them so far this season. He’s 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings for the double-A Bowie Baysox and will pitch in Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star Game in Manchester, N.H. The fact that the 6’ 5”, 195 pound righty is one of the league’s youngest players - he turned 20 in April - only makes his performance this season that much more impressive.
If the Orioles were in contention in the American League East, Tillman would probably be in their rotation already. However, since the team is in merely fighting to stay out of the cellar, there’s no need to rush him and the O’s likely won’t. It’s possible he’ll get a September call-up, but Baltimore will probably resist the urge to do so in order to delay his eligibility for arbitration. Regardless, it won’t be too long before he finds himself atop the pitcher’s mound at Camden Yards. I recently had a chance to speak with Tillman:
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 and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of the Bowie Baysox
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals.