A familiar face with take the mound for the Tribe tonight in Minneapolis. With Cody Anderson on the DL, Josh Tomlin will make his first start for the Indians this season Saturday evening after missing most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery that occurred in April.
Since receiving surgery for an inflamed AC joint in his right shoulder, Tomlin has made a few rehab starts throughout the Indians minor leagues. He made his rehab debut with the Akron RubberDucks on July 11, where he pitched 2 ⅔ shutout innings for the AA team. He struck out two and walked one batter during the outing. From there, Tomlin went on to make a rehab appearance with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He started the game for the Scrappers on July 15 and pitched into the fourth inning. Tomlin struggled in Mahoning Valley, giving up three runs on three hits, striking out three and walking two batters.
There was a point in time where a start by Tomlin was guaranteed excitement. There was a time when Indians fans could have easily seen Tomlin’s name added to the list of outstanding pitchers in the Indians starting rotation. However, that time has come and gone. Tomlin is no longer the dominant pitcher he was a few years ago, and even a spot start by the 30 year old is a little nerve wracking.
Tomlin made his Major League debut in 2010, going 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA. He was again on the big league stage in 2011 and 2012, going 12-7 (4.25) and 5-8 (6.36) respectively. Tomlin did not get to finish out his 2012 season, however, as he was told in August 2012 that he needed to undergo Tommy John surgery. Tomlin was sidelined for an entire year, getting back into the game in August 2013 with rehab starts throughout the Indians minor leagues before making one appearance with the big league team late in the season, in which he pitched two innings, giving up two hits.
Tomlin made 25 total appearances during the 2014 campaign, going 6-9 with a 4.76 ERA. He made 16 starts and pitched one complete game, which everyone remembers, in Seattle on June 28, 2014.
Sadly, this is not the Josh Tomlin we are likely to see on Saturday.
He bounced between starting and appearing from the bullpen during his more current seasons on the mound, and seemed to fit in better in a relief role than starting.
Throwing Tomlin into the mix for a spot start on Saturday says a lot about the Indians pitching depth throughout the minors. To select Tomlin, coming off injury, instead of a regular AAA starter demonstrates the lack of consistent ability the Indians may see in Columbus. They are not asking Toru Murata to again try his hand at the big league stage, nor are they giving the chance to Shaun Marcum, Will Roberts, or Jhoulys Chacin. Do the Indians just want to give Tomlin a chance at the big league level to see how the shoulder surgery worked? Had Tomlin not been available, would the Indians have gone to the AAA roster, or could we possibly have seen a AA pitcher called up for a spot start on Saturday (Adam Plutko, perhaps)? It seems that that could have been a very available and very realistic option.
The Indians season is, barring a miracle, not going to end in a playoff run. If there’s ever a time to see what players could help the team climb out of their hole, it’s now. However, the Indians have good pitching, and it seems that it could be more beneficial to them to see whom from the minors could help continue that trend in later years. While there is no ill-will wished on Tomlin, his performance of past seasons isn’t exactly painting him in the best light.
If one was to guess, tonight’s game will likely be a wait and see performance. That inconsistency and inability to predict which Tomlin fans will see, though, is worrying. The Indians have thrived on consistent pitching this season, and throwing Tomlin into the mix certainly doesn’t outright add to that recognition. The jury is still out on what the results will be, and fans can only hope that they will be wowed tonight by Tomlin.
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