Tillman, 32 in April, is currently on the mend and hoping to throw for clubs in Spring Training, per Sherman. It’d be a surprise to see him land anything other than a minor league deal at that point, but he’ll be an intriguing rebound candidate for a club that’s willing to take on a reclamation project.
From 2012-16, Tillman was the Orioles’ best and most consistent starter, working to a combined 3.81 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9 and a 40.8 percent ground-ball rate over the life of 844 2/3 innings. That stretch included a 2013 All-Star appearance and four straight seasons of 30-plus starts for the former second-round pick.
Things began to go south for Tillman in 2017, though, when a bout of shoulder bursitis delayed the beginning of his season. The velocity on Tillman’s four-seamer was down more than 1.5 mph when he did return, and he struggled enormously that year, limping to a 7.84 ERA in 93 innings of work. Tillman returned to the O’s in 2018 on a one-year deal in hopes of bouncing back, but his velocity was down another 1.5 mph in ’18, when he averaged just 89.6 mph on a fastball that once averaged nearly 93 mph. Tillman allowed 31 runs in 26 2/3 innings before being shelved with a back injury, and he still hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since May 10 that season.
Tillman’s track record and relative youth make him well worth a speculative look in Spring Training. No club is going to immediately entrust him with a rotation spot, but starting pitching is always in demand, and few depth plays can boast a track record as sharp as his half-decade run with the O’s.