Now Healthy, Tomlin Has Reemerged as Quality Starter For Tribe

Josh Tomlin had consistently been the face of inconsistency through his Major League career.

Ever since his rookie season of 2010, he has had stretches where it seemed he would stick as a major presence in the Cleveland Indians rotation. At other times, he seemed more suited for the bullpen or for trade bait.

Tomlin has battled injuries over the years that have not helped in his efforts to get real Major League momentum going. The one year Tomlin was able to put together a full year, 2011, he was solid. In what was his second season, Tomlin was 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA. Not bad for a 26-year-old still learning the big league ropes.

However, an injury in late in 2012 wiped out nearly all his 2013 campaign and he never seemed quite right last year. This past spring, Tomlin looked lost in Cactus League play in Arizona and it was discovered an injured throwing shoulder was the culprit. They injury may well have been a lingering one that hurt the control-oriented pitcher more than we’ll ever know last season.

Tomlin had arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder in April and was on the shelf for four months,. Ever since taking care of that issue, Tomlin has been better than ever. Perhaps getting completely physically right was just what the Cowboy, as his teammates call him, needed.

The 30-year-old veteran has been outstanding since his return in August and is a main reason the Tribe went from also-ran last month to realistic Wild Card contender currently. Even with ace and reigning Cy Young Corey Kluber out for the first half of September, Cleveland’s rotation did not miss a beat. That is because Tomlin pitched every bit like an ace.

In eight starts since his comeback, Tomlin is 6-2 with a 2.43 ERA. It is quite possibly his best stretch as a pro and an indication that he is finally healthy and able to throw the pin-point accuracy that he is famous for. Tomlin will not over power opposing hitters.  He will, however, put his pitches right where he wants them and right where they can not be hit, most of the time.

Tomlin is best focused when runners are on base. His biggest downfall has been the solo home run. He has given up at least one in almost all of his starts, while surrendering just one multi-run blast.

Tomlin, when he has been going well, has always been known to keep his teams in ball games. That has been especially true this season. The Tribe/’s pair of losses this year with Tomlin on the mound have been by 4-1 and 2-0 counts. Those are hardly blowouts. A little run support and Tomlin could  be 8-0.

The emergence of Tomlin allowed the Indians to move one of their struggling young hurlers to the bullpen. Last week, Cleveland sent the young, talented but slumping Trevor Bauer to the pen to keep a five-man rotation in a last-digit effort to chase down the American league’s second Wild Card berth. Not many teams have the luxury of sending a guy who has started all year and pitched reasonably well for most of it out of the five-man. Cleveland does.

Along with the emergence of the rookie Cody Anderson, Tomlin’s revival has given the Indians a plentiful array of starters. Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar represent as good top three in a rotation as any in the game. The back end now seems as settled as ever. Then there is T.J. House, on the farm. House lost this season to injuries, but showed last year that he can have success in the Majors.

Tomlin’s ability to bounce back from injury and prove that he belongs in the rotation means a lot. It means, first off, that the tribe can withstand an injury to a key starter and still be OK. It also means Cleveland could listen to trade offers for one of their young pitchers. The best hope Cleveland has of improving a sagging middle of the batting orders is via trade and likely via a trade that centers around one of their young hurlers. Management and fans can feel a little better about shipping off a Bauer or Carrasco when Tomlin and Anderson look like the real deals.

After looking lost for the last couple years and battling injuries it is nice to see Tomlin bounce back. It was not too long ago that he was thought to be a potential mainstay in the rotation. It was even less time, last season, when he was thought to be on the outs. With a terrific final couple months, Tomlin now appears to be a good bet to be the No. 4 or 5 starer next season. He has done, sort of, what Carrasco did in 2014, when he salvaged his career with a late-season stretch of dominance.

Tomlin has not been as great as Carrasco was last year, but he has been everything the Indians could have hoped for and then some. Depth is a good thing to have in a Major League rotation. Most teams would love it. The Indians have it. A healthy Tomlin may finally be the Tomlin who showed so much promise just four years ago. He has also found more consistency than ever before. Perhaps the inconsistency is now gone.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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