How long can Chris Tillman struggle before Baltimore makes a change?

Though it is just after the fourth game of the young 2018 season, the Baltimore Orioles may have to make a decision on what to do with Chris Tillman sooner rather than later.

HOUSTON — Baltimore needed to bounce back from a season-opening series defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins. They wouldn’t bounce back.

Tillman struggled mightily in his first outing of the year, allowing four runs (four earned), on seven hits, while allowing a home run and walking four batters in 4.0 innings. Over the course of the game, Tillman threw 84 pitches, with just 45 being thrown for a strike. He struggled with command the entire game and missed his spots consistently in Baltimore’s 6-1 loss to the defending champion Houston Astros.

On Monday, Tillman used his fastball the majority of the time, throwing for 41.67% of his pitches. He would throw his sinker 16.67% of the time, his cutter 1.19 of the time, slider 14.29% and changeup 25% of the time. These numbers are troubling for a pitcher that has dealt with an injury in the past.

It seemed as if it was a continuation of his 2017 season, where he pitched to a 1-7 record, with a 7.84 ERA and a 1.892 WHIP in 93.0 innings pitched. Tillman dealt with shoulder stiffness for much of the year. He has stopped using his slider and cutter as often as he has in past seasons and his control isn’t where it was in 2016, where he had a 3.5 BB/9 rate in comparison to a 4.9 BB/9 rate in 2017.

Tillman was signed to a one-year/$3 million deal before the season started, with the hope that he would return to his previous form. However, that just hasn’t been the case, even in spring training. Baltimore won’t see Alex Cobb on the roster for a few more weeks and they don’t have a lot of depth on the major league roster to make starts in his place.

Options to replace Tillman in the rotation

Mike Wright Jr. is on his final straw as a starting pitcher in the majors and Nestor Cortes Jr. is currently Baltimore’s lefty long man out of the pen, but could be given an opportunity to start down the line. Miguel Castro still needs to build up his arm strength and it won’t be at the major league level.

None of these options are quick fixes, but they could make a move down the line by way of the call-up. Hunter Harvey is a name that many have been keyed-in on during spring training, as he showed some promise and his pitches looked crisp. In seven innings, Harvey pitched to a 3.86 ERA and struck out seven, but also walked four.

As with Dylan Bundy, who was another first-round starting pitcher, Harvey has had a rough injury history. Another knock against Harvey is that he hasn’t pitched above low-A ball either. However, his 0.96 ERA in 18.2 innings last year between low-A Delmarva, short-season A Aberdeen and the Rookie League Gulf Coast Orioles, he has looked the part. If he produces at Double-A earlier on during the 2018 season, he could be up to the major league roster in 2018, sooner rather than later.

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(Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America)

Kyle Andrews

Born in Norfolk, VA, raised in the Baltimore area and currently living there. Originally pursuing a degree in exercise science at McDaniel, Andrews became interested in sports writing. He was the sports editor of McDaniel's newspaper in 2014 and became an English major, and hasn't looked back since. Bylines at Fox Sports 1340 AM, Bullets Forever, Baltimore Beatdown, Underdog Dynasty and many other sites.