For a while, Chris Tillman was the only piece working on the Orioles rotation. The Baltimore ace is behind only Manny Machado on the team in WAR with 3.9 after 26 starts. He’ll occasionally get blown up, but has found a measure of consistency later in the season, having at one point in July made four straight starts in which he went seven innings and allowed only one earned run. Not to mention that powerful offense he has backing him up and keeping him out of trouble.
But now, the 28-year-old is suffering through an inflamed shoulder, for which he received a cortisone injection, despite both he and Buck Showalter shaking off the notion that his recent poor start against the Astros on August 20 after a week off was the result of an injury.
Manager Buck Showalter insisted after the game that Tillman was only dealing with the rust that comes with such a layoff, and no residual shoulder soreness. Tillman wouldn’t use rust as an excuse, but said several times that his shoulder was not a concern.
Though Tillman is expected to return on September 5, when his 15-day DL stint will be complete, things are grim.
O's have survived so much this season, but Chris Tillman to DL is tough one. They're 20-6 in his starts, 49-50 in others. @Orioles— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) August 24, 2016
If you want to know how much depth the Orioles rotation doesn’t have, simply take a look at who will be inheriting Chris Tillman’s starts: Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez was the reason Baltimore was motivated to trade for a starting pitcher in July, and in their usual low key way, they brought in Wade Miley. Jimenez was one of the most guaranteed losses in the league, with right-handed batters hitting .288 against him and lefties hitting an even more explosive .335. He couldn’t get guys out at Camden Yards (.312, .854 OPS, 34 BB in 56.2 IP) or on the road (.304, .903 OPS, 25 BB in 38.0 IP). His ERA in July was 10.13, and he was averaging less than 4 IP per start. The fact that Jimenez is coming in is not good news for the Orioles, whose plan I guess is to hope Mark Trumbo can just homer their way out of any deficit Jimenez allows. No matter what angle you took while scanning his numbers, he was dead weight—except, remarkably, for one.
Buck Showalter had been deciding on who would take Tillman’s spot in the interim, and presumably went with Jimenez instead of a minor league arm because of Jimenez’s career numbers vs. the Nationals, who are in town through Thursday.
Buck deciding whether Thursday starter here or will come from minors. Jimenez 6-1, 2.32 ERA 8 career starts vs Nats. 4-0, 0.92 4 starts DC— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) August 24, 2016
Nevertheless, there aren’t too many perilous division races left in baseball, but the AL East features one of them - if the playoffs started today, the East would have three of its teams make the cut. The Orioles are desperate not to lose further ground on the Red Sox and Blue Jays, behind whom they’ve fallen two games after losing eight of their last 14, but Baltimore currently sits in a wild-card spot, fending off the Mariners, Tigers, and Royals. Every game is critical at this point and the loss of a key player like Tillman, even for a short spell, can be disastrous.