But Thursday night, the 23-year-old right-hander provided a glimpse of why he was so highly regarded in the first place.
In a game also featuring Boston's rehabbing Daiksuke Matsuzaka, Tillman stole the spotlight, allowing only one hit and one walk through eight shutout innings in Norfolk's 2-0 shutout of Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium. The Tides starter also struck out nine, tying a season high first established in a six-inning outing May 11.
The lone hit came on Lars Anderson's single to open the second inning. The free pass came one inning later, when Tillman walked Nate Spears on five pitches. Two pitches after the walk, Tillman forced Jonathan Gee into a 6-4-3 double play to start of a streak of 18 consecutive outs.
Toward the end of the run and his outing, Tillman recorded five straight strikeouts between the seventh and eighth frames, including fanning the side in seventh. The California native finished after 100 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. Both totals marked season highs.
Thursday marked the second time in 11 appearances that Tillman blanked an opponent and the first time since his second start of the year April 12, when he tossed 5 2/3 innings against Charlotte.
With the win, Tillman improved to 4-7 with a 4.15 ERA, the lowest the latter stat has been since early April. The 23-year-old was 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA for Baltimore in 13 starts a year ago, but has not been called up to the American League East leaders yet this season.
Despite falling to Tillman and the Tides, Matsuzaka performed well in his second rehab outing since suffering a setback with a strained trapezius muscle.
The Red Sox hurler allowed one run -- on a Lew Ford homer in the first inning -- and two hits through 5 1/3 innings. He added four strikeouts and did not walk a Norfolk batter.