NEW YORK – Right-hander Chris Tillman will make his postseason debut next week as the Orioles' starting pitcher in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Camden Yards.
It appeared evident that Tillman would start the Oct. 2 playoff opener once Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the pitcher would start Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays on one extra day of rest and then do the same going into the postseason. But Showalter officially announced the move before Tuesday's game against the New York Yankees.
"He's pitched 200 innings two years in a row," Showalter said. "That's quite an accomplishment, physically alone, and then you have to pitch well to do that well," Showalter said. "He's a pro. He's turned into a guy that I'm real proud of the way he goes about his business. It's not always perfection, but you feel good about him giving you a chance to win."
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who will start Saturday in Toronto, slots to be the Game 2 starter on one extra day of rest, but Showalter said he likely will wait until the Orioles know their ALDS opponent before making that official. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez also could start that game.
The AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers are the Orioles' likely first-round opponent with six days left in the regular season, but they only had a one-game lead over the Kansas City Royals heading into Tuesday's games.
Tillman, the Orioles' Opening Day starter this season, is 13-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 33 starts in 2014. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last 20 starts, tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history. He has won his last six decisions and eight of his last nine.
"Looking at all the options and everything, I think Chris, just like he pitched the first game of the year, I think he carried that torch well," Showalter said of selecting Tillman to pitch in the postseason opener. "Just gives him the option to pitch two games in the first round."
Tiilman also has pitched extremely well on one extra day of rest this year, going 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in six starts.
Back in 2012, Tillman went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA after a midseason call-up, but he didn't pitch in the playoffs that year. He was on the team's postseason roster and was a candidate to pitch Game 4 of the ALDS in New York, but Showalter opted for veteran left-hander Joe Saunders instead.
Showalter said he has seen incredible growth in Tillman since then.
"Just his presence," Showalter said. "You can tell he doesn't panic. He kind of knows who he is. He knows where to go. He has a lot of confidence in the endgame, so to speak. The sky's not falling after 10 pitches in a game. Let me get through this. He saves his bullets a little bit. You can see he goes back and gets some. He knows the process.
"Some of that changes in the playoffs. It's 'let it rip' from pitch one and then see how far I can take this. Stuff plays in the playoffs, sometimes finesse doesn't."