The source of the recent pitching woes of reliever Neil Ramirez may have been revealed on Thursday morning when the Cleveland Indians placed the 29-year-old right-hander on the 10-day disabled list with lower back spasms.
In a corresponding roster move, right-hander Josh Tomlin was activated from his long stint on the DL by the Tribe.
Ramirez had been a key part of the Indians’ bullpen turnaround midseason. After working in a handful of games in May after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus, he started to find the mound during significant innings late in games for manager Terry Francona. He made 13 consecutive scoreless appearances during June, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out a dozen in 12 1/3 innings (0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, .098 batting average against).
His 17-game scoreless streak came to an end when he blew a save and allowed three runs in one-third of an inning against Oakland (including two home runs) in a 6-3 loss on July 7. He allowed runs in three straight contests later in the month, including two more home runs.
He had fallen back into a similar rut in August in more infrequent appearances after the additions of Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline and the return of Andrew Miller from the disabled list.
Ramirez had allowed home runs in three of his last five contests, coughing up runs in four of those games.
“He’s been battling the back,” shared Francona prior to Thursday’s series finale with the Boston Red Sox. “It was a lot of pitches [Wednesday].”
The 33-year-old Tomlin returns to the Tribe’s 25-man roster and will re-enter the bullpen mix as a long man option for Francona. He landed on the disabled list on July 10 with a right hamstring strain, one day after allowing two runs on two hits in an inning of work (including his 21st home run allowed in 49 innings on the year) in a 7-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s kind of nice to have him back,” shared Francona. “He’s a valuable teammate in here. Even when he doesn’t pitch, in my opinion, he brings so much to our ball club. I think that’s a big lift.”
Tomlin lost his spot in the starting rotation in mid-May with some ugly numbers through his first six starts. In 30 innings over those half-dozen games, he had suffered three losses while giving up 43 hits and five walks (1.60 WHIP) with a .326 batting average against. His plump 8.10 ERA was aided by the 15 home runs that he had surrendered, an average of one every other inning pitched.
In 17 relief outings, he has been better, but only marginally. He had taken two more losses while posting a 5.21 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in that 19-inning span with 20 hits and five walks allowed. He had given up six homers out of the bullpen.
Tomlin had been pitching every five days during his rehab assignment with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks and the Columbus Clippers, but those outings did not go particularly well. He allowed three runs on six hits in two innings in his first rehab start with the Clippers on August 3, but he threw three innings of scoreless one-hit baseball with the RubberDucks in his next appearance on August 8. He returned to Columbus for his next two games, allowing a run on four hits on August 13 before giving up three runs on nine hits in three and one-third innings on August 18.
His combined rehab work amounted to a 5.11 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP, and a .364 batting average against. Three balls left the yard in his 12 1/3 innings of work.
In other Tribe pitching news, reliever Nick Goody, on the 60-day disabled list since May 3 with right elbow issues, is to meet with Dr. Keith Meister and consulting specialist Dr. James Andrews on Thursday regarding on-going issues with his pitching arm. The 27-year-old left his last appearance on May 3 in noticeable pain on the mound with what was described later as a right elbow strain.
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