Tillman now a veteran of Opening Day starts

Orioles righty says he's more prepared after starting opener in '14, '15

Tillman now a veteran of Opening Day starts

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman took a brief trip down memory lane on Tuesday, when he was asked how his reaction to an Opening Day assignment has evolved over the past three years.

"I think I'm more prepared for it now. It was something I hadn't experienced before, so the first one was rough on me," said Tillman, who is the first Orioles hurler to receive three consecutive Opening Day nods since Mike Mussina (1998-2000).

"It was the nerves that got to me the first time, the excitement was through the roof, the butterflies deal, and now I know what to expect. I know what our fans do now -- they're as much a part of this as any of us are -- so it's a lot of fun being there."

Tillman managed to harness his emotions effectively in that first Opening Day outing, and while he didn't factor into the decision, he held the Red Sox to one earned run on seven hits in five innings at Camden Yards in a 2-1 Orioles win to begin the 2014 season.

The Baltimore ace fared well in the 2015 opener as well, limiting the Rays to one earned run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings at Tropicana Field and picking up the win in a 6-2 victory.

The Orioles begin the 2016 season in Baltimore against the Twins in a 3:05 p.m. ET matchup on Monday, and a home game is always an exciting way to start the season, according to Tillman.

"Any time we have Opening Day at home is a good time ... it's always a little better," Tillman said. "You get the hometown crowd, the orange carpet deal, a lot of noise. It's fun."

And while Tillman enjoys the excitement generated by an Opening Day start, he's maintaining his signature big-picture focus as he prepares for the season ahead.

"Collectively, it's important for all of us to pitch well on the night that we get the ball," Tillman said. "Opening Day is important because it's the first game of the new season and everyone's excited -- it's a whole new opportunity -- but I think baseball is good in the fact that we do have 162 games, so we have plenty of starts to show up for."

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.