Tillman's return a boon for O's rotation

Starter tosses five scoreless frames in season debut

Tillman's return a boon for O's rotation

BALTIMORE -- Chris Tillman has waited a long time for this. Tillman, who was slowed all spring with right shoulder discomfort, made his season debut in Sunday's 4-0 win over the White Sox, tossing five scoreless innings as the Orioles completed the three-game sweep at Camden Yards.

In his first Major League game since September, Tillman walked the first two batters he faced. But he righted the ship from there, holding the White Sox to three hits and just one more walk therafter.

The O's had planned not to stretch Tillman too far beyond 90 pitches, so the fact that the righty got through five solid innings in 93 pitches was as good as they could have expected. Tillman went 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts in 2016 -- his return should help stabilize the rotation.

Tillman on his season debut

"It was a real testament to his pitchability, searching for something he could survive with early, where he could get in step a little bit," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Chris has got a lot of weapons. I remember when we first had him, it was really a 2 1/2-pitch mix. Now, it's a cutter/slider, and he went to that some later on. Changeup, he found a feel for that. He'll tell you -- I don't think he really felt good about the command of his fastball for most of his outing, but he and Frankie [catcher Francisco Pena] found a way to survive."

Using a heavy dose of offspeed pitches, the 29-year-old Tillman picked up his 73rd career win as an Oriole, and he admitted it felt good to show that he can pitch again.

"I think every start the rest of the way is going to be a hurdle [to cross]," Tillman said. "That's the way I've always kind of looked at it. But on the way back, those hurdles are pretty important.You want to see the progress, and sometimes you can get lost in just looking for results and kind of get away from the progress and the hurdles."

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.