Tomlin’s Consistency Necessary For Tribe Rotation
Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we continue our Goodyear coverage by breaking down the players who the glue to the team if the Tribe is to make the playoffs.
By Craig Gifford
Josh Tomlin will never overpower anyone with a blazing fastball. He’s likely to never put up the gaudy statistics of baseball’s great starting pitchers. However, what he will do is consistently pitch well and keep his team in any given game. That’s what Tomlin did in the first 37 starts of his career and if that kind of consistency carries into this year, the Cleveland Indians will continue to have one of the back-end rotation guys in the game.
From his call-up to the Major Leagues in July 2010 until August 24 of last year, Tomlin worked five innings or more in every start. That stands as a record for a pitcher to start his career on such a streak. The only thing that may have prevented the right hander from really making it an even more staggering number was a late-season injury. Tomlin’s streak ended against the Seattle Mariners on August 24 and he was shut down for the remainder of the season, days later, with a strained right elbow.
Coming into this season, Tomlin is pain free and is hoping to continue another streak of successful starts. He will open the season as the number or three or four pitcher for Cleveland and, numbers-wise in 2011, was the second best pitcher in the rotation behind ace Justin Masterson. Last season, Tomlin was 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA. He had 10 wins at the All-Star break, an impressive feat for anyone pitching their first full season.
Tomlin slowed down after the Mid-Summer Classic, but many believe that was due to the elbow issue and the fact he threw more innings than ever in high-stress situations. He likely hit the wall that so many young starting pitchers hit in August. It was thought that he would be able to come back late in the year if the Tribe had managed to stay in the playoff picture.
Cleveland will need Tomlin to be healthy and remain as consistent as he was before last summer’s injury in order to have a shot at the AL Central title or one of the two Wild Card berths. Behind Masterson, there are so many questions. Ubaldo Jimenez and whether he can become something resembling the pitcher he was in 2010 is chief among those. There are also questions concerning what Derek Lowe has left in the tank, whether Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) will be back soon and who the fifth starter can be. It would be huge if Tomlin remains a non question for Cleveland and just does what he is capable of.
What he is capable of is winning games and not letting the opposition run away with a game. Tomlin has come away with 18 wins in his 38 career starts. That includes a win in his debut on July 26, 2010 against the Yankees. In that game, he outpitched former Indians Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia for a 4-1 victory.
The career ERA for Tomlin is 4.34, solid for a guy not expected to be any more than a mid to lower rotation guy. As stated earlier, he will not blow anyone away – he had only 89 strike outs last year.
However, he will not hurt himself, either. Tomlin’s accuracy last season was pin-point. He surrendered a mere 21 walks, or 1.1 per nine innings pitched.
If Tomlin can continue putting up his usual numbers, it will save strain on the bullpen, as well. Manager Manny Acta can go into a Tomlin-pitched game, knowing he is likely to get six innings from the starter and set up the bullpen for the late innings.
A Cleveland run to the postseason this year will almost assuredly have to include Tomlin having his continued, consistent success.
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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