Josh Tomlin Works His Way Through Rehabilitation
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players on the 40-man roster that is on the mend this spring.
By Ronnie Tellalian
Josh Tomlin showed a great deal of promise in his first 38 starts spanning 2010 and 2011. Elbow problems led to a lack of control and he was eventually shut-down late in the year. In August, 2012, he underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss nearly all of 2013, but both Tomlin and the Indians are hopeful of a successful return in 2014.
Tomlin was a work horse pitcher for the Indians in his first two seasons. He pitched six or more innings in 23 of 26 starts in 2011 and led the American League with a mere 1.1 walks per nine innings pitched. Heading into 2012 Tomlin held a career record of 18-11 in 38 starts. His control was impeccable and his consistency was uncanny. Tomlin moved into 2012 with all the possibilities open before him.
His impeccable consistency faltered early on in 2012. Tomlin got shelled for four runs in 3.2 innings in his second start but bounced back the next week going eight innings, giving up just one run. He gave up seven runs over his next 11 innings, and then things looked like they were going to turn around. On May 7 against the White Sox, Tomlin went 7.1 innings giving up two runs on five hits and a career high eight strikeouts. The following day Tomlin reported soreness in his wrist and was placed on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing a MRI which revealed inflammation to soft tissue. He came back in late May and struggled through June, July and August. He pitched his last game on August 12, giving up seven runs in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen. He underwent Tommy John surgery five days later.
Tommy John surgery is a ligament replacement surgery. The medial ligament in the elbow is removed and replaced with a ligament form elsewhere in the body, usually the hip, forearm, hamstring, knee, or foot. The name comes from former Major League pitcher Tommy John who won 288 games in his career and was the first to undergo the surgery. At the time, in 1974, he was given a mere one percent chance to ever pitch in the Major Leagues again. The prognosis today is much more positive and the recovery rate has risen to 85-92 percent.
Many pitchers have been able to successfully recover from Tommy John surgery. The namesake himself earned 164 of his 288 wins following his surgery. Washington star Stephen Strasburg won 15 games with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in the season after his surgery. St Louis ace Adam Wainwright won 14 games and struck out 184 batters after returning from his hiatus. Chris Carpenter went 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA upon returning from his surgery. The recovery process has progressed to the point where pitchers can enjoy even more success after the surgery then they had before the surgery. The reason for the increased success has to do with the recovery process. A rigorous program of strength and conditioning is strictly adhered to for up to 18 months post-op. The recovery from Tommy John surgery occurs in three phases.
Phase one takes place in the first six weeks after the surgery. The player wears a brace that immobilizes the elbow for 10 days while he does range-of-motion exercises for his wrist and shoulder. After 10 days he wears a range-of-motion brace on his elbow until he gradually regains a full range of motion. During the time he does exercises to strengthen the arm and shoulder as well as total-body conditioning.
Phase two take place after six weeks and this is when players begin to perform elbow strengthening exercises. Players will not throw a baseball and are encouraged to refrain from activities that will damage the graft, like the whipping motion that comes with throwing a baseball.
Phase three is the final phase of the recovery process and takes place four months after surgery. Players may begin to throw a baseball without a wind-up motion. After six months they may begin to use an easy wind-up, and after seven months they can begin throwing off of a mound.
Tomlin is now six months post-operative. He has begun throwing on flat ground and last reports say he is out to 75 feet. The Indians are hopeful that he can begin his mound work in extended spring training. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway is optimistic of his return in 2013.
“We don’t have an official date of when he’ll be back, but it will be sometime around the end of the season.” Callaway said.
If Tomlin can return to his old self, a pitcher with top of the line control and excellent consistency, he can greatly help the Tribe rotation in 2014. He is one of several talented young arms the Indians have available, including Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Zach McAllister. With the additions the Indians have made to the line-up, if Tomlin can return as a solid starters the Indians have a great and bright future ahead of them.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com