Tillman for Sunday, Bergesen to pen

Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman will start Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, the team announced on Wednesday.

The move puts starter Brad Bergesen in the bullpen as an extra starter/swingman until at least April 10, which is the first day the team needs a fifth starter given their early off days.

With top pitching prospect Zach Britton and Justin Duchscherer both on target to return April 21, the early performance of Tillman and Bergesen could be big in deciding who stays and who goes in the rotation.

Neither Tillman nor Bergesen impressed this spring, but with Duchscherer starting the season on the disabled list and Britton ticketed for Triple-A to delay his free agency clock, Sunday’s start quickly became a two-man competition.

The 22-year-old Tillman pitched to a 3.93 ERA in five games (four starts) this spring, allowing 20 hits and nine walks with 10 strikeouts. He allowed eight earned runs in 18 1/3 innings.

Bergesen, who was removed from his last start after a leadoff liner struck him in the right forearm, has struggled this spring. In six games, the 25-year-old has allowed 11 earned runs on 25 hits and six walks, pitching to a 5.82 ERA. He also struck out 11 and the team feels, at this point, that Bergesen is better suited than Tillman for a bullpen role.

Tillman will be opposed at Tropicana Field by Rays’ right-hander Wade Davis.

To recap, Jeremy Guthrie is the O’s Opening Day starter, followed by Brian Matusz and now Tillman. Jake Arrieta will pitch the home opener on Monday.

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