Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43: Josh Tomlin

As Did The Tribe Win Last Night helps fans count down the days until the Indians retake the field in an official Major League game, we look back at some of the players who wore the Cleveland jersey with pride.

Countdown to Opening Day – 43 days

Every team has their strengths and, without a doubt, one of the Indians’ biggest – if not the biggest – strengths is the depth of their starting rotation. While four of the five spots are locked down with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer leading the way, there is still one spot open for the Tribe’s starting five. Last year, Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin seemed to be the anchors of that fifth spot after it was a rotating door of difficulty early on. Of those, perhaps the most interesting candidate is also the oldest of the group – Tomlin, the Texas cowboy who stunned fans early in his career before his progress was derailed with Tommy John and, last season, shoulder surgeries that put the pitcher on a new track.

Tomlin made his big league debut with the Indians six years ago in July of 2010 against the New York Yankees. He impressed from the start, holding New York to one run and three hits with no walks over seven innings. 2011 was his best season on record, amassing a 12-7 record and 4.25 ERA over 165.1 innings of work. The injuries began plaguing Tomlin in 2012, and he was sidelined for much of that season, plus all of 2013, as he recovered from Tommy John. He spent time in the minors in 2013 and 2014 as he recovered, though his 2014 appearances with the big league team were nothing to scoff at.

However, it still wasn’t the Tomlin of old.

In 2015, Tomlin made ten starts with the Tribe and put together a 7-2 record and 3.02 ERA. However, that wasn’t before undergoing yet another surgery, this time for the pitcher’s shoulder. The shoulder surgery, though, seemed to work wonders for Tomlin in the remainder of the season as he struck out 57 batters in 65.2 innings. He held opposing batters to a .195 average after his surgery and gave up 13 home runs, though eleven of those were solo shots.

While Tomlin’s showing was strong to end the season, he is being met with stiff competition from Anderson, who made his big league debut last season. In 15 starts, Anderson posted a 7-3 record and 3.05 ERA. He was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for September, during which he has a 1.86 ERA in six starts. The youngster has spent time this offseason getting into peak shape, the true impact of which has not been seen yet this early in Spring Training.

Tomlin does also have bullpen experience, which makes him a strong asset to the Indians’ pitching depth any way you look at it. Tomlin was also signed to a two-year contract extension earlier this year and avoided arbitration in the process. The contract extension gives Tomlin $2.25 million in 2016, $2.5 million in 2017, and provides the Indians a club option in 2018 worth $3 million. The deal also includes performance bonuses for games started and innings pitched.

Tomlin is currently the longest-tenured member of the Indians’ active roster. His recent bounce-back from surgery has had him throwing some of the best games of his career, including three complete games in the past two seasons. If he can keep this success consistent throughout the coming season, the final rotation spot competition will be fierce, but if Tomlin’s grit thus far is any indication, he’s more than up for the challenge.

Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

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