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Orioles' Tillman sharp in victory over Rays

AP - Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) -- Chris Tillman pitched two scoreless inning in an impressive spring training debut, helping the Baltimore Orioles open their exhibition schedule with a 4-2 victory over Erik Bedard and the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

Bedard spent the first five years of his career with the Orioles and is competing to win the fifth starter's spot in his first season with the Rays. He yielded a three first-inning runs, although that doesn't necessarily mean he took a step back in his bid to rebound from a pair of disappointing seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros.

The left-hander, who turns 35 on Wednesday, was 11-26 with a 4.76 ERA over the last two seasons, including 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 26 starts and six relief appearances for the Astros last year.

As a veteran of 10 seasons, Bedard understands spring training numbers don't always reflect how a pitcher is performing. He understands the competition for the job.

''It puts a little more pressure,'' Bedard said. ''In the past I've had very bad springs, and I've have decent ones. You just go out there and throw strikes and do the best you can. Sometimes the results in spring don't mean you're not doing good.''

Tillman, a first-time All-Star a year ago, allowed one hit, walked none and struck out three. Steve Clevenger had a RBI single and Alex Gonzalez finished Baltimore's big inning against Bedard with a two-run single.

''Tilly was sharp. Sometimes last year he was kind of searching for arm strength early, even in the season, but he was pretty sharp today,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''He has a different presence about him. He's not that much more heavier, but you see some definition, the way he carries himself and everything.''

Jerry Sands and Justin Christian drove in runs for the Rays.

STARTING TIME

Orioles: Tillman went 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA before the All-Star break last summer and finished 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. He threw 25 pitches in his spring training debut, primarily working on fastball command. He fanned David DeJesus, James Loney and reigning AL rookie of the year Wil Myers, but stressed it's just a start.

''I think this early in spring it doesn't really matter who you face. It's just going out there and getting the feel again,'' Tillman said. ''We face our own hitters the first two weeks, and it isn't the same feel. So it was good to get the juices flowing again.''

Rays: Bedard also threw 25 pitches, but allowed three runs, three hits, walked two, struck out one and also had a wild pitch in one inning. Manager Joe Maddon stressed it's too early to read anything into the outing. ''It's a process-oriented situation. I really liked a lot of what our pitchers did today. ... Bedard gave up a couple of runs, but I thought he made some good pitches,'' Maddon said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rays 2B Ben Zobrist remains sidelined with a sore back. Madden said he's feeling better and is expected to take part in team drills and return to the lineup early next week. INF Alexi Casilla (hamstring), 1B Chris Marrero (oblique) and OF Quintin Berry (back) did not make the trip for the Orioles.

LOTS OF FUN?

The American flag, as well as the game ball, were delivered to Charlotte Sports Park by the U.S. Special Operations Command parachute team, which ended a free-fall demonstration by landing on the field. Maddon was impressed, but said he had no interest in taking up skydiving.

''I don't even like jumping off diving boards,'' the Rays manager said.

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