Tillman, Matusz solid after early camp injuries

Tillman, Matusz solid after early camp injuries

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reliever Brian Matusz returned to the mound for the Orioles in the team's 8-8 tie against the Rays on Sunday, while starter Chris Tillman took a step forward in his second Grapefruit League outing.

Matusz had not pitched since his spring debut on March 2, after which he was diagnosed with a right serratus (lower back) strain. Facing Rays non-roster players in the ninth inning, he retired the side in order on three straight fly balls and pitched with his fastball in the 88-90 mph range.

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"It's a start," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "His command, he's feeling for it a little bit right now, but I think it'll be good for him to get this one under his belt and feel a little better each time out. I saw him peeking at the [radar] gun a little bit."

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Tillman, who battled a hip flexor problem early in camp, ramped up his pitch count to 66 (42 strikes) while completing four innings. He had gone only 1 2/3 in his debut on Tuesday against Toronto.

The right-hander allowed three earned runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. All of the damage came on back-to-back homers by Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria in the third inning, as Tillman left a couple of balls up in the zone on a hot day when the wind was blowing out at Ed Smith Stadium.

"I made a lot of good pitches last start, and I made a lot of good pitches this start," Tillman said. "It's the mistakes I've got to cut down on. I made a couple today, but I made a lot of really good pitches with all my pitches. It's exciting."

Showalter was happy with Tillman's performance and the fact that he reached 95 mph with his fastball. And despite the increased workload, Tillman felt he held up well.

"I wasn't tired at all," he said. "They actually gave me the option of coming down to the bullpen and throwing a couple more, but I was happy with where I was at, and I think I accomplished what I needed to."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.