Tillman aims to start season strong for O's

Right-hander gets Opening Day nod for third consecutive season, feels prepared

Tillman aims to start season strong for O's

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Chris Tillman will get the ball on Monday at 3:05 p.m. ET to start a new season, a chance for the right-hander to set himself -- and the Orioles -- on the right foot.

"Collectively, it's important for all of us to pitch well on the night that we get the ball," said Tillman, who will face the Twins. "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."

The Orioles' rotation enters the season as a big question mark as fans, opposing clubs and the organization all wonder if the O's starting pitching can hold up. Tillman, an All-Star in 2013, bouncing back from a disappointing last season is a big part of the equation.

This will be Tillman's third Opening Day assignment, and he is the first O's starter to get the nod for three consecutive years since Mike Mussina did it from 1998-2000.

"It says something about his dependability ... Chris has been a durable performer," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Tillman has also pitched well in season openers. In 2014, he held the Red Sox to one earned run on seven hits in five innings at Camden Yards in a 2-1 Orioles win. Last year, he limited the Rays to one earned run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings at Tropicana Field and picked up the win in a 6-2 Baltimore victory.

"I think I'm more prepared for it now," Tillman said of his evolution regarding Opening Day. "It was something I hadn't experienced before, so the first one was rough on me. 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."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.