Tillman making progress from back woes
Right-hander's next step will be intrasquad game Monday
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Chris Tillman threw batting practice on Friday morning with no reported back pain and is expected to throw in the Orioles' intrasquad game on Monday.
Tillman said it took him a little while to warm up on Friday, but after riding a stationary bike to loosen his back, he felt great on the mound.
"[It] took a lot to hold back," said Tillman. "I didn't want to go 100 percent, but I did at the same time. It took the pitching coaches to kind of say, 'Whoa' to settle me down a little bit."
The 21-year-old Tillman was pulled from Sunday's workout with back spasms after falling asleep on the couch in an awkward way. The Orioles chose to err on the side of caution and had Tillman miss Monday's scheduled bullpen session. The right-hander tossed a side session on Wednesday at about 75 percent and faced hitters for the first time this spring on Friday.
Tillman said he used all his pitches in Friday's outing, which featured Garrett Atkins, Scott Moore, Lou Montanez and Jeff Salazar at the plate. Tillman has been working on developing a cut fastball this spring and threw two of those with Atkins at the dish.
"The first one was more of a hard slider," Atkins said. "The second one didn't move quite as much and was kind of more what you want from that pitch."
Tillman has been encouraged by his initial attempts at the cutter and said he will spend some time watching video and learning more about the pitch.
"[I'll] see what the philosophy is on it," Tillman said. "I don't know when to throw it, when not to throw it. It's all new to me."
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Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Tillman's offseason program helped make his recent back spasms more of a "minor hiccup" than a serious problem. Tillman arrived in Sarasota early this year with some added muscle to his lanky frame.
"He looks stronger to me," manager Dave Trembley said. "I think he's eight pounds heavier than he was last year."
Tillman wasn't sure whether he would get to pitch another bullpen session or just take two days off before Monday's intrasquad game, which Trembley said will have seven pitchers on each team.
Right-hander Brad Bergesen is schedule to throw off the mound on Saturday for the first time since suffering a strained right shoulder capsule while filming a commercial in early December.
Bergesen tossed two flat-ground sessions this week and has been champing at the bit to get back up on the hill.
"[Saturday's] the big day," he said.
Bergesen is part of a Baltimore rotation that is projected to be Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Tillman. The 24-year-old Bergesen was 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts for the Orioles last season, but he had his year cut short after taking a line drive to the shin on July 30.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.