SARASOTA, Fla. -- Some players use spring training to get ready for the regular season. Others hope to make an impression on the manager while fighting for a roster spot.
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman came to camp with a good chance to make the starting rotation, but instead of getting wrapped up in the competition, the 22-year-old focused on becoming a better pitcher.
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Tillman continued the process Sunday, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings to help the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3.The right-hander scoffed when asked about coping with the pressure of an outing that could decide his immediate future."I'm working on a whole new delivery here," Tillman said, "so that takes a lot of my focus away from that kind of stuff, which is a good thing."Tillman struck out three and gave up six hits and four walks. He's in a duel with Brad Bergesen for the third spot in the rotation.Bergesen is recovering nicely after being struck in the right forearm with a line drive Friday. He tested his pitching arm Sunday by throwing on flat ground from 60 feet before moving back to 120 feet."It's nothing I can't throw through," Bergesen said. "It's a little tender, a little sore. But we deal with that type of stuff all the time. I don't think it's going to be a big problem. Very encouraging."Bergesen is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA. Tillman is 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA."I think they showed some signs of what everybody thinks could be, and some signs of what they need to get better at," said manager Buck Showalter, who probably will take a few days to pick between the two."I did all I could in the offseason. I did the best I could out here," Tillman said. "I'm just working on things so I'll be more locked in on getting myself ready to go."After Tillman left with the Orioles trailing 3-1, Baltimore rallied in the eighth against Santo Luis. With the bases loaded and no outs, Matt Wieters singled in two runs and backup Ryan Adams followed with an RBI single.J.D. Drew hit his second homer for the Red Sox, a two-run drive in the third.Boston has lost 10 straight, but manager Terry Francona expressed absolutely no concern."You're talking to a guy who cheats when he's playing his kids at Monopoly. I want to win, but we wouldn't have put in Luis if we wanted to win," Francona said. "You try to do what you're supposed to do, and you always want to play the game right. We'd all rather win than lose. But I don't think it's created an atmosphere of panic. Sometimes you throw some kids out there."Koji Uehara pitched a perfect seventh inning for the Orioles in his first big league appearance since Feb. 28. The right-handed reliever has been hindered by a sore elbow."I'd almost forgotten he was here," Showalter joked. "To see him throwing the split and the slider, that's a good sign."Asked if he's prepared to pitch on opening day, Uehara said, "More than enough to be ready. ... I'm in a good place."
Francona was asked before the game to comment on a magazine article in which Showalter said, "I'd like to see how smart [Boston GM] Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll." Francona said, "That's my boss, so I was kind of aggravated a little bit. It's not the end of the world. I just thought it shouldn't have been done." ... Former Oriole Matt Albers gave up an RBI single to Nick Markakis in the third. ... Francona likes what he's seen from infielder Nate Spears, who is expected to start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. "Spears is going to find his way to the big leagues," the manager said. "He deserves to be here. He's worked as hard as anybody in camp, he's about as good a kid as you're ever going to find and the coaches love him."