Tomlin closes important chapter in comeback with win
MAY 07, 2014 12:07a ET
CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin, who has always been a big supporter of the military, was wearing a T-shirt with the motto from the Wounded Warrior Project -- "The Greatest Casualty is Being Forgotten."
It can also remotely apply to any pitcher that has ever gone through Tommy John Surgery. The hours of rehab are long, grueling and often done in solitude. There also aren't any absolutes that all the hard work will pay off in the end.
Almost 21 months since having surgery on his right elbow, Tomlin closed an important chapter in his comeback as he made his first major-league start in nearly two seasons on Tuesday. It ended up being a success as he allowed only one run in 6 2/3 innings of the Indians' 4-2 win over Minnesota at Progressive Field.
"There never are any guarantees you will come back from that surgery. Around the league there are a couple guys who had to have a second one before getting back out there," Tomlin said. "So to be able to come out here and not have any reservations about the elbow is special."
In his first major-league start since July 27, 2012, which was also against the Twins, Tomlin said he felt anxious but didn't show it as he allowed only four hits with a walk and four strikeouts in 93 pitches (66 strikes). It is also his first win since July 5, 2012, against Tampa Bay.
Tomlin held Minnesota scoreless until there was one out in the seventh when Chris Colabello hit a 1-1 hanging fastball to the left-field bleachers. If you count his previous starts in Triple-A Columbus, it was the first run he had allowed in 26 1/3 innings.
After Jason Kubel singled and Kurt Suzuki fouled out, Tomlin's night was done as he left to a standing ovation.
"That was exciting. I actually walked out to him before the game and just said, 'Hey, man, enjoy the (heck) out of this.' He loves to compete. You can tell," Terry Francona said. "We gave him the lead and he did exactly what you're supposed to do, threw strikes, used both sides of the plate, he worked ahead. He started getting comfortable flipping his curveball over. (He) just worked ahead, down."
Of the 24 batters Tomlin faced, he fell behind on only six. With the Indians getting out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, Tomlin faced the minimum in the next four innings and threw only 47 pitches.
While many will be quick to ask why Tomlin or Trevor Bauer weren't in the rotation in the first place and Carlos Carrasco was, don't expect Tomlin to be one of them. After undergoing Tommy John Surgery on Aug. 22, 2012, he spent the first four months of last season rehabbing before appearing in 10 minor-league games with eight starts beginning in late July. He was called up the final month and worked two scoreless innings of relief against the White Sox on Sept. 12.
The rehab starts allowed Tomlin to start trusting his arm again and not have any reservations about throwing whatever pitch he wanted. However he said it wasn't until September that any reservations he had about the elbow went away and he didn't think about it anymore.
But even with all that, Tomlin still didn't have the feel of being in a regular rotation. The past month in Columbus provided that as he made five starts, going 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA with 28 strikeouts and nine walks.
Said Tomlin about the value of being in Columbus: "Just to get the legs underneath you again and to be in that starting rotation and going every fifth day and getting six, seven, eight, nine innings whatever it is. Getting your feet wet and what it feels like to get up that many times I needed that."
Tomlin's start also continued what has been an impressive homestand for the rotation. In the five games, Indians' starters have allowed just five earned runs in 33 2/3 innings pitched (1.34 ERA) with 37 strikeouts and only six walks.
"They've been throwing the ball well," said Michael Brantley, who drove in a run. "Offensively, we need to keep putting pressure on them. We need to step it up and give them more runs. They're keeping us in every game. That's all you can ask for out of them."