Orioles Look to Tillman for Present and Future Hope

Dan VillantiContributor IJuly 28, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chris Tillman #8 of the Baltimore Orioles poses during photo day at the Orioles spring training complex on February 23, 2009 in Ft. lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

After a 1997 season that produced nearly 100 wins (98-64), the Baltimore Orioles were left searching for answers and, more importantly, searching for a stable, long-term pitching staff.

Ten years later, after many offensive signings (Miguel Tejada, Javier Lopez, Melvin Mora, Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff, Ramon Hernandez, and Sammy Sosa to name a few), the Orioles still have one constant problem: Their pitching staff.

On Wednesday, the Orioles hope to turn the page in a new chapter, one that shines the light on good, young arms.  Chris Tillman will be the first of many highly touted pitching prospects called up from Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday and will make his Major League debut in Baltimore vs. the Kansas City Royals

However, Tillman will have his work cut out for him, facing Major League ERA-leader Zack Greinke. 

Tillman was part of the Erik Bedard trade, which seems to be complete now that Tillman will become a major leaguer.  As Adam Jones and George Sherrill, the other two key pieces that came to Baltimore, have been great for Baltimore, the Orioles feel Tillman will do the same. 

At just 21 years of age, Tillman will be the youngest Orioles pitcher to start since Jim Palmer in 1965, when he was 20 years old. 

The 6'5" right-hander will start Wednesday what many believe will be a long and successful career.  Tillman throws a consistent low-90s fastball with the ability to hit the corner on both sides of the plate.  The 21-year-old will also use an above-average curveball and a changeup, which has become a solid No. 3 pitch. 

Not only are the fans and players looking forward to seeing Tillman in the big leagues, manager Dave Trembley is also looking forward to it. "It should be fun,"  Trembley told reporters when asked about the move.

Matt Wieters is also looking forward to reuniting with Tillman. "His stuff is going to be able to be successful up here, but it's a lot more than stuff up here....It's just a matter how long it's going to take to make the adjustments up here," said Matt Wieters, who has caught Tillman at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

In 2008, Tillman dominated the Eastern League (Double-A), winning 11 games and posting an ERA of 3.18.  The righty had 154 strikeouts in 136 innings pitched, and batters hit a measly .227 off Tillman last year. 

In 2009, Tillman picked up right where he left off last season.  In 18 games started, he won eight games and was top 10 in the International League in strikeouts, earned run average, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and WHIP. 

Camden Yards was electric on May 29 when the Orioles called up Matt Wieters. Although Tillman may not receive the same hype on Wednesday, he will receive a well-deserved ovation.  The ovation is not only for Tillman but also for the fan's hope for the Orioles' future.