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05/17/11 1:39 AM ET

Back stiffness doesn't keep Tillman from start

BOSTON -- Chris Tillman woke up Monday morning with a stiff back, but he was able to work through it with team trainers and tossed five scoreless innings in an 8-7 loss to the Red Sox.

Tillman is optimistic he'll be able to make his next start, though he was only able to throw 88 pitches before being removed.

"For the most part, I didn't feel it in my pitching delivery," said Tillman, who may have been pitching for a job with the impending return of Brian Matusz, who threw 60 pitches for Class A Frederick on Monday. "It was more to do with when I was breathing. It had nothing to do with the way my pitches felt or the pitch quality. My pitches felt good."

Tillman allowed five hits and three walks while striking out two in his first career start at Fenway Park.

"He has a lot of deception and they didn't center a lot of balls off him," manager Buck Showalter said. "He gave us a good chance to win; we just couldn't pitch those last four innings."

Showalter believes the 23-year-old pitcher will continue to have success if he can avoid long at-bats.

"That's a lot easier said than done," Showalter said. "I think he needs to take advantage of some of his counts. [Young pitchers] do it for spurts for two or three innings. It's pretty normal with young pitchers trusting their stuff and not giving the hitters too much credit."

Tillman has shown flashes of the pitcher the O's hope they have, like his six-inning, three-hit performance his last time out against the Mariners. But the former second-round Draft pick has a hard time stringing consecutive quality starts together, which he yet to do this year. He's also never won back-to-back games during his three-year career (32 starts).

"I think he's getting a better feel of what he needs to do to be successful and what makes him not successful," Showalter said. "I hope that continues. You're always looking for that consistency, and the more that they establish the track record, they're able to take some of the bumps along the way a little better."

Tillman's five scoreless innings Monday marked the sixth straight game in which Orioles starters allowed three runs or less, and they are 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA in that span.

O's holding their own in jam-packed AL East

BOSTON -- It's been a weird season in the American League East, second baseman Brian Roberts said Monday.

The Orioles were in last place heading into a two-game series with the Red Sox, yet just one game away from being .500 and 3 1/2 games back from the first-place Rays.

After the Sox swept the Yankees over a three-game series in New York and the O's took the last two from the Rays, the AL East is suddenly a lot more condensed.

"Everybody's beating up on each other," Roberts said. "All five teams are good. It's definitely the toughest one in baseball by far. Put a couple of these teams in other divisions and I think we could all win a division somewhere else."

Manager Buck Showalter said he's been happy with the way his squad has played the last six days, when the O's have gone 5-1 against the Mariners and Rays, but this time of year is when every club gets exposed.

"I hope we're not one of those," he said. "I think you see a lot of things at 40, 50 games. You'll start seeing a lot of separation now. I think that's the thing about our game, is the strengths and weaknesses always show up over the course of the season."

Before Baltimore took two of three from Tampa Bay, the Rays were 8-3 this month. Roberts said he wasn't surprised with the AL East leader's recovery from a 1-8 start.

"I think in the beginning of the year everybody was trying to figure out if they were going to be able to make it," he said. "They're bound to win [their] fair share of games. They pitch and play defense. That's kind of how they've formed their team.

Izturis has right hand examined in Baltimore

BOSTON -- Infielder Cesar Izturis left the Orioles on Monday afternoon and flew back to Baltimore to get his right hand examined by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens.

Izturis had been feeling numbness in some of his fingers and is expected to be back in Boston on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old shortstop is hitting .192 (5-for-26) in a limited bench role this season.

Worth noting

• Justin Duchscherer is scheduled to pitch three innings in extended spring training on Wednesday, and manager Buck Showalter said he expects 45 pitches from the right-hander, who is recovering from a left hip strain.

• Brian Matusz is scheduled to start with Class A Frederick on Monday and throw 55-60 pitches, which Showalter said could be more than four innings if necessary. Matusz could be activated as early as May 26.

• After going 0-for-22 over a six-game span, Brian Roberts has collected multiple hits in three of his last four games. "I'm getting there," he said. "It's all about feel and confidence and everything else. Once you get going, it all snowballs one way or another. You try to get the snowball going the right way."

• Roberts echoed a sentiment shared by many Major League players, as the O's are in Boston for just two games before moving on for a two-game set against the Yankees. "Nobody likes two-game series," he said. "I don't know why they have two-game series. You don't get in any rhythm or get settled or anything. But you deal with it."

• The Orioles are 12-37 at Fenway Park since June 2, 2005, and have lost 18 of their last 23 games in Boston.

• J.J. Hardy is 10-for-24 since coming off the disabled list Tuesday and said he hasn't felt any pain in six or seven days, but Showalter was slightly concerned considering the rain and chilly weather at Fenway on Monday night.

Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.