Tillman focused on now, not stressing future

Showalter: Pending free agent's 'biggest thing right now is getting ready to pitch' for O's

Tillman focused on now, not stressing future

BALTIMORE -- Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was at this week's minicamp, taking time -- despite not being part of the actual camp roster -- to watch some of the younger pitchers and check in with the team at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Tillman -- who lives in Sarasota, Fla. -- talked with some of the youngsters, did some fishing and seemed to genuinely enjoy being around the team. O's manager Buck Showalter noted that he feels confident Tillman, last year's Opening Day starter, will be in a good spot physically to start the 2017 season.

Beyond that, of course, is the looming question. A free agent at the end of 2017, Tillman will begin fielding contract questions soon enough. There's been no recent talk about an extension, though that could change for the arbitration-eligible righty.

Tillman earned $6.22 million in 2016, and according to MLB Trade Rumors, he is projected to get a substantial raise that would put him over $10 million this year. He briefly chatted with reporters and will dutifully field all questions about his pending free agency when camp starts next month. But it's clear Tillman is not stressing about the future.

"We're all pending free agents in a lot of walks of life," Showalter said when asked about Tillman's demeanor. "First of all, if you know Chris and his personality and his makeup ... Chris can get along fine. I don't want to say he's saving his money and he's a frugal guy, but he is. This is not a guy who's playing this game [for the money].

"Yeah, it's a great byproduct of it, but I think Chris' biggest thing right now is getting ready to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles and contribute to win, and the rest of it will take care of itself."

Tillman has flourished under Showalter, maturing into a steady presence in the rotation and a veteran whom young players can look up to. Still just 28, Tillman went 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts last year. He's thrown 170 or more innings the past four seasons, two of which were 200-plus-inning years.

Tillman is among a large group of arbitration-eligible Orioles, with Friday the deadline for teams and players to exchange salary figures or try to work out an agreement (to avoid a hearing). Baltimore reportedly agreed to contracts Thursday night with Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. 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.