PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Chris Tillman started the last game of the 2013 season. After his 16-win season last year, he hopes to start Opening Day. But first, it was his duty to start the first game of spring.
Behind a team of hopefuls, Tillman looked sharp, throwing two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three in the Orioles’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays before 5,017 at Charlotte Sports Park.
"It was good. I think it was more of going out and getting the adrenaline flowing at the beginning and the nerve flowing more than anything else. I felt good about myself. Just wanted to work on fastball command today and for the most part it was good,” Tillman said.
In his first outing, Tillman faced a team he often has to oppose.
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“I think this early in spring it doesn't really matter who you face. It’s just going out there and getting the feel again, we face our own hitters the first two weeks and it isn’t the same feel. So it was good to get the juices flowing again,” Tillman said.
Manager Buck Showalter liked what he saw from the pitcher who took a big step last year.
“Tilly was sharp. Sometimes last year he was kind of searching for arm strength early, even in the season, but he was pretty sharp today,” Showalter said.
“He has a different presence about him. He's not that much more heavier, but you see some definition, the way he carries himself and everything."
Tillman was satisfied with how he’s felt in the first two weeks and glad to get on and off the mound so quickly.
“I threw changeups and curveballs. Not as many as I would have, but my goal was to go out there and get the fastball command first. And kind of went off that,” Tillman said.
The Orioles scored three runs in the first off Erik Bedard, who was traded to Seattle in the move that brought Tillman and Adam Jones to Baltimore in 2008.
Alex Gonzalez had a two-run single and Steve Clevenger a run-scoring base hit.
Jemile Weeks scored two runs, including the fourth run in the second on a wild pitch.
Clevenger, Gonzalez and Francisco Peguero each had two hits.
Zach Britton followed Tillman, and allowed a run on three hits in two innings. Mike Belfiore allowed a run in the seventh. Brad Brach, Eddie Gamboa, Nick Additon and Tim Alderson each threw a scoreless inning.
“I was trying to familiarize myself with some people I don't know. Kind of curious to see what they bring,” Showalter said.
It was a sad day for the team. It learned of the death of public relations director Monica Barlow early Friday morning, and Showalter choked up when talking with the media before the game.
He texted her every night, he said. Last night he did hear back, and knew it was bad then. The 36-year-old Barlow was a favorite of Showalter’s.
He admitted he had difficulty concentrating.
“The game’s a little reprieve, but so many things you associate with Monica,” Showalter said.
Team owner Peter Angelos released a statement on Barlow’s passing.
“It was with deep sadness that I learned of Monica’s passing this morning. In her 14 years with the club, she was a beloved member of the Orioles family, starting as an intern and becoming Director of Public Relations. Over the past four and a half years, the work Monica did to raise awareness and funds for cancer research was a testament to her dedication to helping others. The strength and resiliency she displayed by not letting her illness define her was a great inspiration to all who knew her. Her loss will be felt deeply by not only our front office staff, but also our manager, players and coaches, with whom she worked on a daily basis. On behalf of the club I extend my condolences to her husband, Ben; her parents, Wayne and Ramona Pence; her brother, Jonah; her sister, Natalie; and her family and friends,” he said.
NOTES: Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon both threw bullpens at Sarasota.
-The Orioles released left-handed pitcher Chris Jones. They had designated him for assignment on Monday.