With every pitch Chris Tillman throws, he makes the Orioles look more and more prescient for having the Mariners include him in their trade for Erik Bedard 14 months ago.
Making his Triple-A debut for Norfolk on Monday, Tillman pitched four scoreless, no-hit innings at Charlotte and recorded four strikeouts. With a low-90s fastball and a plus curveball, Tillman picked up right where he left off last year, when he had a 3.18 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 135 2/3 innings for Double-A Bowie. His command isn’t big league ready—he walked three batters and needed 71 pitches to get through only four innings on Monday—but he’s only 21 years old.
When Tillman showed up to his first Orioles spring training camp last year, his repertoire, size and pitching style reminded Orioles pitching coordinator Dave Schmidt of a former Oriole great.
"The thing that struck me was he was a high three-quarters (arm slot) guy with a nice, good four-seam fastball rotation," Schmidt said. "I saw the makings of a four-seam fastball/curveball/changeup kind of guy, which you don’t see too many of those guys any more. It’s mostly you see a lot of sinker/slider, that kind of stuff. He’s a little unique in that—he’s tall, he’s lanky. I think when he gets to Baltimore—although he doesn’t throw as hard—he might remind some people, the older fans, of a Jim Palmer kind of a pitcher, although he isn’t quite as over-the-top as Jim Palmer was, doesn’t throw as hard as Jim did, but that kind of pitcher (with a) four-seam fastball and an overhand curveball, which has really improved this year in its quality. And his changeup has come along."
Next up for Tillman are continuing to refine his command and making his changeup a quality third pitch to keep hitters guessing. Tillman, who came over to the Mariners in the Bedard deal along with center fielder Adam Jones, righthander Kam Mickolio and lefthanders George Sherrill and Tony Butler, has also introduced an occasional two-seam fastball into his repertoire.
"He’s really made the effort to improve his changeup this spring," Schmidt said. "He, on his own, he threw it sometimes in some games exclusively, not throwing his curveball, just throwing fastballs and changeups. When you do that, you commit to making the pitch better, and he’s made a lot of progress with it, so we’re really happy with adding that third pitch and becoming confident in it. We’ll see how it goes during the year this year.
"I think he’s come up with a grip that’s comfortable for him, and I just think he needs to throw it like he did in spring training. He threw it a lot, and if you throw it a lot in the game you’ll be more comfortable and more confident with it. We feel like to be a starting pitcher, you need that third pitch. I think up until last year he really didn’t need a third pitch. He had the good fastball, he had the good curveball, and at the lower levels I think he probably got by with it."
D.J. Mitchell Report
In his first start of the year on Friday for low Class A Charleston, D.J. Mitchell was dominant. The Yankees’ six-foot righthander only allowed one hit and one run (it was unearned) in six innings. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out six, using an advanced two-seam fastball to get nine groundouts compared to just two fly outs. He’s slated to go again tonight at Rome (Braves).
"He always threw strikes in spring training, so I knew that wouldn’t be an issue," Charleston manager Torre Tyson said. "He located his fastball well. He’s got a great two-seam fastball that sinks and tails. If he can throw that anywhere around the zone at this level, he’s going to succeed."
Mitchell, who turns 22 next month, slid to the 10th round of the draft last year, then signed for third-round money ($450,000). Mitchell is still learning the curveball after using a slider at Clemson, and he threw a couple of hanging breaking balls in his opener that he got away with. The curve and the changeup both flash solid-average to above-average potential at times, but Mitchell’s two-seam fastball looks like it might be too good for South Atlantic League hitters.
Tyson knows that first-hand after putting on the equipment and catching one of Mitchell’s bullpen sessions, only to come away with a balky thumb from trying to catch his two-seamer.
"That two-seamer," Tyson said. "I remember a couple of strike threes where the guys were just swinging a foot over it."
The Michael Main-Tim Alderson pitching matchup didn’t have the feel of a confrontation between two of the better pitching prospects in the minor leagues. In a California League showdown, Main left after allowing seven runs (six earned) in three innings. The Rangers righthander surrendered 10 hits and three walks while striking out two. Alderson’s six strikeouts and no walks suggest that the Giants’ 20-year-old righthander pitched well in the face of an 11 mph wind blowing out to left field, but he left after four innings having allowed four runs and 10 hits.
Playing Like Giants
Alderson’s San Jose club came away with an 8-6 victory last night against Bakersfield. The Giants have one of the most prospect-stacked teams in baseball, and it’s shown so far as the team has outscored its opponents 41-21 en route to a 5-2 record. Giants catcher Buster Posey led the charge last night, homering off Main (his third long ball of the year) and finished 3-for-3 with a double, a stolen base and two walks to bring his early season line to .462/.563/.885. The Giants’ run differential could get even better tonight when lefthander Madison Bumgarner takes the mound tonight against Stockton, which sends righthander Craig Italiano to the mound. Bumgarner’s line from his first start of the year looked familiar: six shutout innings, two hits, no walks and five strikeouts.
Ramos Catching Attention
Twins catcher Wilson Ramos opened the season with an 0-for-12 with Double-A New Britain, then responded with eight hits (including one home run) in his next three games before going 0-for-4 last night. Ramos, 21, is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors, with good receiving skills and a strong arm to control the running game. He hit well for a young catcher playing in the pitcher-friendly high Class A Florida State League last year by batting .288/.346/.434 in 126 games, but his approach–he drew 37 walks and struck out 103 times–is still a work in progress.
"He’s a good-looking prospect," said a National League scout. "I’m not so sure yet that he’s not just a backup guy, though. I’m not saying that he’s not an everyday player, but his offense is going to have to catch up with his defense."
Yankees righthander Dellin Betances held Lakeland to one run in six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts in his first start of the year, and the high Class A Tampa starter makes his second start of the year tonight in Brevard County. Throwing opposite Betances will be a familiar name, though one that hasn’t been evoked much recent years: Mark Rogers.
The Brewers righthander was the fifth overall pick in 2004, a high school arm from Maine. Rogers’ career has been derailed by injuries, preventing him from pitching the last two seasons. Rogers, now 23, made his first start of the year on Friday, throwing three shutout innings with a walk and a strikeout at Daytona.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog