Immediately after the Orioles, and their AAA affiliate Norfolk Tides, played to a 3-3 tie at Harbor Park yesterday. Buck Showalter had said that Chris Tillman could start his first game as early as May 2. That would put him on the mound to take on the Boston Red Sox, at Fenway Park. Buck also stated that Tillman could start his first game on May 7, or May 12. The game on the 7th is against the White Sox, and the 12th would be against the Royals.
According to MASN beat writer Steve Melewski, the Orioles have “mapped out a plan“, and Tillman will make four rehab starts in the minor leagues. Depending on how he progresses, will determine when he gets to take the mound with the Orioles for the first time this season.
The assumption, prior to his injury, was that Tillman would get the nod for his fourth consecutive Opening Day start. If you were to follow the standard days rest after Opening Day, Tillman’s next starts would have been on the 11th in Boston, the 16th in Toronto, the 22nd back home vs. the Red Sox, and the 28th in New York.
All five missed starts would be against teams in the AL East, and this is tough considering his dominance against division teams last season. In 14 starts against division rivals, Tillman pitched to a 6-1 record, with a 3.49 ERA. His only loss came against the Rays on 9/17/16, where he allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings, and the Orioles wound up losing 5-2.
It’s also worth noting that in 30 starts last season, the Orioles were 22-8 when Tillman pitched.
The Orioles are planning on a three man rotation to open the season, and that works in their favor given the off days during the first week. I thought it was strange seeing two off days within the first week, however it played out nicely. So the rotation will go Gausman-Bundy-Jimenez before Wade Miley returns from the DL. Then, you could see Gausman-Miley-Bundy-Jimenez-(Ynoa).
Kevin Gausman will face division teams five times, pending everything goes as planned and he makes a start every fifth day. This includes two starts against the Blue Jays, and two against the Yankees. The other could be against the Rays, in Tampa. Gausman was 5-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 15 starts against teams in the east last season. He dominated the Yankees, starting six times and holding a 1.10 ERA against them, but was tagged for 12 ER in 15.1 IP (three starts) against the Blue Jays.
Dylan Bundy makes five starts as well, including two against the Blue Jays, and single starts against the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees. Again, this is only if he makes his scheduled start every fifth day. Bundy logged 47 IP against east teams last season, and finished the year with a 6.13 ERA.
Ubaldo Jimenez will have four scheduled starts vs. teams in the east, including two vs. the Red Sox, and two against the Yankees. Jimenez didn’t face the Yankees last season, and was 0-2 with a 5.28 ERA in 15.1 IP against the Red Sox. Jimenez finished the season with a 5.27 ERA in just ten starts against the east. There was also that game in October when Ubaldo… no, let it go.
After returning from the DL, Wade Miley will be scheduled to make four starts against the east, one per team. After coming over to the Orioles at the trade deadline, Miley started five games against the east, pitching to an 0-3 record, with a 6.23 ERA. Yikes.
The first month of April features 23 games, with 20 being against teams in within the division. I don’t want to say that April is a make-or-break month for the team, but I will say it will be very easy to be left in the dust to start the season.
It would have been nice to have Tillman in the rotation, helping this club get off to a hot start. However, the Orioles now will need to rely on the rest of the rotation to pick up the slack, and help this team through a tough month of April baseball.