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Tillman still out, but Orioles feel they have other options

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Baltimore Orioles right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman won't start a fourth consecutive season opener because of a sore right shoulder.

After starting three straight openers, Tillman will get a cortisone injection in hopes of returning sooner rather than later.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said on Wednesday that Tillman, who has yet to pitch this spring, could accelerate his 2017 debut with Baltimore.

"We put all the options out there to him, and let him decide what he wants to do," Showalter said.

Last month when spring training began, Showalter said that if Tillman, who had a platelet rich plasma injection in late December on the shoulder, could pitch early in the season if everything went well.

Showalter had set Friday as Tillman's day to pitch, but when he had an aborted bullpen session on Sunday, the Orioles had to reevaluate both their timetable and their rotation.

Baltimore hasn't decided on a substitute for Tillman for the April 3 opener, but it could be right-handed Kevin Gausman.

"Obviously, we wish that he was going to be starting opening day and coming out of the gate healthy," Gausman said. "But he's kind of done his part around here lately, so it will be good to give him a break essentially and hopefully he comes back and feels even better that he did before.

"We've got a lot of good arms in this camp and a lot of young guys, a lot of guys who are kind of in limbo right now as to whether they're going to be a starter with us or a long guy with us."

Showalter has cited five internal options to temporarily replace Tillman: right-handers Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright and Gabriel Ynoa as well as left-handed rookies Jayson Aquino and Chris Lee.

"He's the ace of our staff, so I think everybody's rooting for him to get better," Wright said. "He's in here every day, so we all see what he's doing and he's working hard to get back. I personally hope he comes back. We need that veteran leadership and regardless of where that puts me," Wright said.

Showalter said he's concentrating on the pitchers who are currently in camp.

"We've got some options. I'm not spending much time looking at options outside the organization," Showalter said. "We're staying focused here and I'm confident that he'll pitch."

Earlier this month when Tillman was still on schedule, he tried not to be overly optimistic.

"I don't want to get too ahead of myself. I've seen some guys that have set dates and haven't come close to hitting that. I don't want to get too high or too low. I'm just going to take it day-by-day. This is something new. I'm not used to it. I haven't gone through it before," Tillman said.

Showalter believes Tillman could still pitch early in the season if the cortisone shot works.

"I think we increased our chances," Showalter said. "If he comes out of this and feels normal, everything he's done to get to this point won't go away. It could move quickly then, but not Opening Day."

NOTES: OF Seth Smith has been slowed by a right hamstring injury. He hasn't played since March 8. . LHP Vidal Nuno, who played for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic has returned.

Updated March 15, 2017

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