NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Tillman is making progress. Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter can see it.
“I don’t think he’s near the deer in the headlights that he was last year, so hopefully he’s growing a little bit,” Showalter said.
Tillman, 22, has a big test coming up. His scheduled start at Yankee Stadium was moved back to Wednesday when Baltimore and New York were rained out Tuesday night. No makeup date was announced.
Tillman will face fellow right-hander A.J. Burnett, also pushed back a day. Acquired from Seattle with four other players in the February 2008 trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners, Tillman has a 3.38 ERA after two starts this year, both no-decisions.
“It’s a work in progress. He’s got some deception in his delivery, but he’s had some counts that show you over the course of a season it’s going to be a challenge for him. We’d like to see him get a little better at that,” Showalter said. “I think our guys that have seen him pitch realize that he was fortunate in some situations that over the course of a season might bite you.
“But he does have some weapons to get you out with,” the manager added. “We’re kind of into our sixth and seventh starter depth at a very early point, but he’s one of the youngest guys on our club, which is saying a lot. We do have a lot of young guys.”
Right-hander Jake Arrieta will start Thursday night as planned for surprising Baltimore, off to a 6-3 start that has the Orioles in first place in the AL East. Baltimore, which has scored only one run in its last 24 innings, is an AL-best 40-26 since Showalter took over as manager on Aug. 3, 2010.
But not all the news has been good.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is expected to go on the disabled list with a strained muscle on his left side, and right-hander Brad Bergesen is likely to be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. Bergesen would probably be penciled in to start Sunday at Cleveland.
Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes, off to a horrendous start this season, will have to wait an extra day to see if he can find his fastball against the Orioles. Hughes had his next outing pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday because of the rainout.
Hughes, who won 18 games last season and made his first All-Star team, has been an enigma early this year. His velocity is down and the 24-year-old right-hander is 0-1 with a 16.50 ERA after two starts. He lasted only two innings Friday against the rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“It’s no fun to sit on a bad outing for four days, so I’m excited to get out there, get things going again and hopefully work on some things to get back where I need to be,” Hughes said. “I can’t afford to go out and throw two innings or four innings every start with the stuff I have. I have to turn it around.”
In other news, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said reliever Luis Ayala will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his back. The team is expected to call up a replacement in time for Wednesday’s game.
Also, injured left-hander Pedro Feliciano still felt discomfort when he played catch Tuesday. He will have another MRI exam Wednesday.
Feliciano was shut down late in spring training and is on the disabled list with a strained left rotator cuff. The Yankees had hoped to have him back after just a few weeks, but now that doesn’t seem so certain.
As for Hughes, he has been trying to iron out his problems in the bullpen with new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, working to get his lower body more involved in his delivery.
Hughes and the Yankees don’t think there’s anything physically or mechanically wrong, they just think he lacks his usual arm strength right now.
“I feel good, but it’s impossible to tell on the in-between days,” Hughes said. “If it’s not there, I still have to find a way to pitch, get outs and keep us in the game. I can’t go out there and, if I’m not throwing 94 or 95 (mph), just chalk this one up as another bad one. I have to find a way to battle and get through it, hopefully pitch as well as I can.”
Along with ace CC Sabathia, Hughes was supposed to be one of the starters the Yankees knew they could count on. His success — or failure — could be pivotal to their suspect rotation. And even Hughes acknowledged he’s a little concerned about his arm.
“Yeah, it’s obviously something to be worried about. This is my job, my livelihood. When I don’t have the stuff I know I’m capable of going out there with, it’s worrisome and frustrating. I’m still confident that it will be there, but I wouldn’t be out there trying to get it right if I wasn’t worried about it,” he said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)