A back injury landed Baltimore Orioles starter Chris Tillman on the disabled list. The veteran has the rare chance, perhaps, to clear his head and start again.
Once the ace of their staff, Tillman has plunged off a cliff the last two seasons. His last start, a 1.1 inning six-run drubbing by the Kansas City Royals Thursday, landed him on the disabled list with a back injury.
Although he might have tweaked something, this was the third time in 2018, out of seven starts, where Tillman failed getting past the second inning. In those games, he allowed 18 of his total 31 earned runs. On a team headed for nowhere, he is adrift.
Tillman once featured a fastball averaging 92 that hit 95 occasionally. This season, the fastball is in the high-80s and can reach 92 with extra effort. Any pitcher who loses three or four precious miles off their heater is in trouble. The slider, sinker and changeup hover around the same speed.
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Toss in 17 walks and 42 hits over 26.2 innings and you have a nasty WHIP of 2.213. That whiplash would make anyone get a backache. If you thought his 7.84 ERA last year was bad, Tillman’s 10.46 mark this year will get fantasy players combing the waiver wire with each baserunner.
Tillman has never owned great control. Two years ago, he walked 3.5 per nine innings. In his 2013 All-Star season, the ratio was 3.0 BB/9. But, he induced contact and was decent striking out hitters. His high-watermark came in 2013 at 7.8 K/9. This year a career-low of 4.4.
Grab the ibuprofen.
Sometimes, the best medicine for a struggling player is to give him time away. A position guy can take a couple days off and pinch-hit or play Fortnite in the clubhouse to clear his mind. A starting pitcher does not have the luxury. The questionable injury trip to the 10-day DL is a good way to clear the head.
For a gamer such as Tillman, this collapse of his talent has to wear on him. He has a pair of good starts mixed in including a scoreless seven-inning game against Detroit where he whiffed five and scattered a hit. But, any momentum from a good outing is spoiled five days later.
Baltimore made the right move sending Tillman on vacation. Any hot prospect in Triple-A Norfolk or Double-A Bowie will pitch better and give general manager Dan Duquette an opportunity to look at fresh talent.
After his back gets better, perhaps Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles will fare better. They can only go up from where they are now.