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Tillman grows into solid performer for Orioles

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm •  Published: March 14, 2014
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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Chris Tillman likened his 2013 season to inserting the final pieces into a jigsaw puzzle.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter compared the right-hander's breakthrough campaign with a student belatedly earning a diploma.

Both analogies work. Tillman finally put it all together in his fifth year in the big leagues, and the result was a 16-7 season that doubled his career wins total and put him in line to make his first opening-day start on March 31 against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

Tillman was 16-19 over 51 games before 2013, when he won seven straight decisions from May 24-June 30, earned a trip to the All-Star game and finished with a 3.71 ERA.

His performance was the result of getting his 6-foot-5 frame in shape, then adding a heavy dose of confidence. The right-hander's transformation began after he went 3-5 in 2011 and continued in 2012, when Tillman went 9-3 after spending the first half of the year in the minors.

"After that 2011 season, something had to change. It just wasn't working," Tillman said this week. "That offseason was the first I trained with (former Oriole) Brady Anderson. Then there's the mental part of it. I came into spring training in shape and confident. I think confidence has a lot to do with this game. It's all mental."

Tillman arrived at spring training last year knowing he was out of options. If he didn't make the Orioles, he probably would end up elsewhere.

"Most guys, when they're out of options they go one way or another that spring," Showalter said. "Tilly walked around here, like, 'OK here it is. It's come to a head now. Let's go.'"

Tillman was a different pitcher in 2013, when he fulfilled the potential that made him one of the key elements in the 2008 trade with Seattle that also brought Adam Jones to Baltimore. Jones grew into an All-Star, and now Tillman is one, too.

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