07/07/10 7:42 PM ET
Tillman looking like Saturday's starter
Pitcher would be called up from Norfolk to go against Texas
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
Given the Orioles' overused bullpen -- which covered seven innings on Monday -- using Mark Hendrickson to spot start would leave only one long man, Jason Berken, for a four-game set against a lethal Rangers lineup.
"It makes sense," O's pitching coach Rick Kranitz said of recalling Tillman, who is already on track to start Saturday in Norfolk. "We need some length in the bullpen is what we need. We pushed Berken and [David] Hernandez back, to the end of the game, and if Hendrickson then becomes a starter, we don't have a lot of length. It makes more sense that he would come up and pitch for us."
In three starts since he was optioned back, Tillman is 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA and has allowed just 10 hits and five walks, while striking out 13 in 21 2/3 innings. While the 22-year-old Tillman has struggled to translate his success to the big leagues -- going 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in four starts this season -- Kranitz thinks it's only a matter of time before he makes the adjustments.
"I think the experience is invaluable," Kranitz said of bringing up young guys like current O's starter Jake Arrieta and Tillman, rather than letting them dominate for Norfolk. "Obviously you don't want them to get beat up [in the Majors] but you got to be a tough guy up here.
"I've seen it before, guys will go down [to Triple-A] and pitch pretty well and come up and maybe scuffle a little bit. But that's part of the process. [Tillman] will put it together, it's just a matter of time. Sooner or later, he's going to come up here and its going to click. And he will say, 'OK, I don't have to give these guys as much credit as I have.'"
Kranitz acknowledged that it's common for young guys like Tillman -- who was tasked with working on his cutter and command this spring -- to get to the Majors and revert back to what they think works best. Such was the case with Tillman earlier this season, as he stayed away from throwing his cut fastball and had trouble reaching his regular velocity in the first inning of the game, showcasing an alarming flat 90-mph fastball in June 14's start in San Francisco.
"He still needs to get his first three pitches over, which are all quality," Kranitz said of Tillman, who has been experiencing with different grips to get some more movement. "A lot of times, all of a sudden, you get to the big leagues, and you're used to throwing a certain way [in Triple-A] and you don't know when to throw [the cutter]. I look at it and he throws it sparingly now. And then next year he will have a much better grasp of it [and] when to throw it."
If Baltimore does recall Tillman, optioning back Bell over struggling reliever Frank Mata makes sense, given that Mata is a rested arm who likely won't be used in close situations. The O's have Mata for multiple innings in the event one of the four games against the Rangers gets out of hand.
O's hesitant to go back-to-back with Uehara
DETROIT -- The Orioles have tried to stay away from using reliever Koji Uehara on back-to-back days. But, as interim manager Juan Samuel said prior to Wednesday's game, the O's don't always have that luxury.
"If the situation calls for us to use him we are going to throw him out there," Samuel said, adding that pitch efficiency will be a factor in calling on his reliever two consecutive games. "He's up here, he has to pitch.
"If we need him to come in and get some people out, we're going to do it."
Uehara has twice landed on the disabled list this season, and struggled to pitch under the humid conditions in Texas when the O's played there in mid-May. Following May 19's appearance at Texas, Uehara was physically exhausted and didn't pitch for several days before the Orioles put him on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.
"Yes, he has a history of not pitching well or not giving you more than one inning in that kind of weather," Samuel said, as Baltimore prepares for a four-game weekend set in Arlington. "but we don't have the luxury [of not using him]."
Uehara said on Thursday that physically he feels great and would be able to pitch consecutive days if needed. Perhaps a bigger concern for the right-hander is his effectiveness since he was reinstated on June 27. Uehara has allowed three earned runs in three innings, including a pair of runs in Monday's appearance at Detroit.
"Physically, the mechanics, that's not balanced," said Uehara, who admitted this stretch has been the most frustrating for him performance-wise since signing with the O's last season. "And that part is going to lead to me being mentally imbalanced as well."
Samuel wants Simon to be aggressive
DETROIT -- Alfredo Simon suffered his second blown save in 12 chances in Tuesday's loss to Detroit, and interim manager Juan Samuel said he'd like to see his closer go right at opposing hitters.
"There's no doubt, to me he just needs to throw his fastball more," Samuel said of Simon, who surrendered a game-tying, two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera on an offspeed pitch.
"At times he throws the split finger pitch too much and hitters start sitting on it. He throws hard enough where he can challenge guys with his fastball and throw the split finger later."
Simon, who assumed the closing duties in the wake of injuries to Michael Gonzalez and setup man Jim Johnson, has a fastball that tops out in the high 90s and is just a little more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He's been a bright spot for a beleaguered Baltimore bullpen and entered Wednesday's series finale with a 2-1 mark and a 3.68 ERA.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.