Josh Tomlin: Mr. Consistency

By Craig Gifford

In what has been an inconsistent season for the Indians, starting the year red hot, going ice cold and now warming up again, one player has remained consistent all year.  Through scores of injuries, slumps and players shuttling between the minors and majors, one player for the tribe has not wavered.

That constant for the Indians is starting pitcher Josh Tomlin.

And he hasn’t just been consistent for the Tribe.  In fact, the 26-year-old right hander has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the history of the game. Since being called up on July 27, 2010 and earning a win over the New York Yankees, the Indians have been able to send the soft tosser to the mound, knowing the bullpen would not have to carry much burden that day.

Tomlin, who has now started 36 games in his short career, essentially a full season, has made it through at least five innings in every one of his outings. That is a record to start a career, a record that was broken when Tomlin got to 28 starts, and we are still counting.

For the coaches and the hurlers in the bullpen, being able to count on a starter to get through five innings, and typically six or seven, is huge. When Tomlin starts following a game in which the starter had faltered early, he can save the bullpen from further wear and tear. He can make it so the long reliever gets a day off or the set up men only need work an inning, tops.

In the case of manager Manny Acta, the Tribe skipper can figure on having his bullpen cover just three innings and can work match ups wherever he wants. It’s a luxury to have for any manager, being able to have starter go deep into a ballgame and simply finish up the contest with the top two or three relievers. It’s a proven recipe for success when you have enough pitchers like Tomlin.

Not only does Tomlin eat innings, 227 of them since last July, he also wins his share of games.  The numbers show he is not just on the mound killing time, he is having success as well.  As stated before, Tomlin has basically pitched one full year.  In that span, he is 18-9 with a 4.16 ERA. Those are No. 1 starter numbers for a guy who is actually the Tribe’s No. 3 pitcher at the moment.  This year, those numbers stand at 12-5, 3.97.

Picked in the 19th round of the 2006 amateur draft, not a lot was expected of Tomlin. Now he has future All-Star written all over him.  Tomlin worked his way up the minor league system, without even having a scorching fastball in his arsenal of pitches.  Relying on guile and pinpoint accuracy, Tomlin found himself making what was a spot start last year against the Yankees.  That day, he went seven innings, allowing just one earned run.  Cleveland could not send him back down to the minors after that and Tomlin has done nothing but cement himself as a cornerstone in the rotation for years to come.

It may not be reasonable to expect Tomlin to go a full career getting through five innings and beyond.  Even the greatest hurlers of all time have had days where they just could not get anyone out.  However, Tomlin seems to have the make up that when that falter comes, he will be able to rebound quickly and start a new streak of consistency.  For now, it will be fun to watch each of Tomlin’s starts and cheer when he walks off the mound after the fifth, sixth or seventh inning.

How far will the streak go?  Only time will tell.  How far can he help carry the Tribe? Behind aces Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, Tomlin gives the Indians a starting triumvirate equaled by a select few teams (looking at you Red Sox, Phillies and Giants). If the Indians can get into the postseason, Tomlin will be a big reason why.  If they can get anywhere once October hits, we will all be thanking Tomlin and his consistency.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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