Josh Tomlin, Right Arm Rejuvenated, Returns to Cleveland

Josh Tomlin will be on the mound tonight for the Indians. It will be the 29-year-old right-hander’s first start in a Cleveland uniform since he underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2012 season. The opportunity is well-earned. Tomlin has thrown 17 scoreless innings in his past two outings for Triple-A Columbus and has a 2.06 ERA overall.

Tribe fans can expect to see a revamped-velocity version of the pitcher who went 12-7, 4.25 in 2011. Tomlin still relies on cutters and command – he’ll never be confused with a fire-baller – but he’s throwing harder than he has at any point in his life. More importantly, he’s throwing free and easy.

“The injury prevented me from doing the things I need to do,” Tomlin said. “In 2011, maybe a month after the All-Star break, I started feeling like something wasn’t right. I tried to pitch through it late in 2011 and early 2012, but couldn’t command the ball and couldn’t cut it when I wanted to. I didn’t have the extension to get the ball down and away to righties. Subconsciously, I knew it was going to hurt when I did that, so I kind of cut the ball off trying to get it there. It got to the point where righties could eliminate a pitch away and sit middle in, and lefties knew I was going to work away. When a hitter can take away one side of the plate against me, it’s going to be tough for me to compete. Now I’m able to get the ball to that side and move pitches around to keep hitters off balance. That’s my game.”

Tomlin’s radar gun readers are also healthier. His fastball sat in the upper 80s before the surgery. Now it’s north of 90 mph.

“My velocity has crept up a little bit,” Tomlin said. “I’ve been 91-93 throughout the game with my fastball. My arm speed is better since the surgery. The crispness of my pitches is back to what they were before. Right now I feel like I’m a 15 or 16-year-old kid playing catch again. It doesn’t hurt, I don’t feel it, I don’t think about it. I just take the ball and pitch.”

Tomlin was reminded in spring training that he still has to “pitch” to be effective. He’s never been a power guy and a little extra octane isn’t going to change that.

“I got myself hurt against that Abreu guy with the White Sox,” Tomlin said. “I got him down 1-2 and tried to blow a fastball by him, in. I basically tried to throw the ball too hard – I guess I was overconfident – and left it over the plate. He hit it pretty good. That’s something I had to learn in spring training: How to hone in my new-found velocity and new-found feeling. I can throw pretty hard right now – at least for me – but throwing the ball by someone isn’t my game. I need to set them up to where 89-90 is still effective. It’s about making a quality pitch and missing a barrel, not lighting up the radar gun or trying to get too cute with my fastball.”

Tomlin’s cutter is his most attractive offering. It is also the shapeliest. Thanks to his rebuilt arm, he can tempt hitters with it in two different ways.

“I’m able to do things with my cutter now,” explained Tomlin. “I’m able to make it move horizontally if I want it to. If I get a guy 1-2 with a fastball, I can make it a little bigger. I also have one with more of a slider depth to it. Basically, I’m throwing two different cutters – one more horizontal to miss the barrel and one with a little more depth to try to get ground balls, maybe even a swing-and-miss. But for me, the cutter is a pitch to get weak contact early in the count to keep my pitch count low.”

Tomlin’s repertoire includes a curveball. It’s his third-best pitch and yet another that’s been rejuvenated by his surgery.

“My curveball is the pitch that’s probably been helped the most,” Tomlin said. “Again, I’m not thinking about it. I can grip it without that feeling of ‘I hope it doesn’t hurt.’ The conviction I have behind all of my pitches is the biggest change. It’s not like it was when I was struggling and my arm was bothering me a little bit. Not to make excuses, or anything like that, but the conviction I had then is nothing near what I have now.”




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


16 Responses to “Josh Tomlin, Right Arm Rejuvenated, Returns to Cleveland”

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  1. Brandon says:

    Nice piece, but I wish it would have addressed why the Indian’s better arm and future ace is lingering in the minors throwing 99 mpg gas.

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  2. Dave says:

    Bauer’s service year anniversary is May 11. By deferring a callup until at least then, Clev gains an extra year of team control.

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    • TangoAlphaLima says:

      And May 11th would be the next start for Tomlin’s spot in the rotation. So I guess it’s safe to assume if Tomlin isn’t lights out today, he’s getting optioned back to AAA and Bauer will get called up on May 11th? Bauer should be up again for the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday, so I guess we’ll know by then whether the Indians will call him up if his minor league start gets skipped.

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    • Brandon says:

      Thanks Dave. Possibly the most logical explanation I’ve seen regarding Bauer…ever.

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    • d_i says:

      Wouldn’t that mean they’d have to wait about two weeks past then (since there is roughly 190 days in a season, but in terms of a season = 172 days (cant collect more than 1 year in a calendar year even if you are up for all 190 days)? Just like Springer, except in the middle of the year right? Or am I misunderstanding that?

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      • TangoAlphaLima says:

        Fangraphs shows normally around 183 actual days in the MLB season. The general calculation would be to leave a player with zero service time in the minors for 15 to 20 days to keep him from accruing a year of service time. This was what the Astros did with Springer, somewhere right in the middle.

        Bauer already had 25 days of service time coming into the season, and he was called up for that spot start against the Padres, so I’d think he’d be up to 26 days by now. So if you add the standard 15 to 20 days to that, you’d arrive at 41 to 46 days after the start of the season.

        The Indians’ first game was supposed to be on April 1st (it was rained out). With 30 days in April, that puts us at May 11th at the absolute earliest if the math all plays out right for Cleveland, or May 16th at the latest, both of which would be on regular rest for Tomlin.

        So, in short, unless Tomlin has a crazy good start or two, Bauer’s likely to be called up to start either May 11th or May 16th. We should know whether it will by May 11th or not on Wednesday, as Bauer is scheduled to start that day for the Columbus Clippers. If he’s pulled from the rotation, we’ll know why.

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        • Simon says:

          Strongly suspect there is some wishful fantasy baseball thinking going on here.

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        • isavage30 says:

          If anything, Bauer will come up soon and replace Salazar if he continues to struggle

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        • TangoAlphaLima says:

          @Simon

          Ha! You caught me. I’ve admired Bauer for a while, and he’s usually graced my fantasy roster when he’s been nearing a call up. However, I will take issue with the analysis being “wishful.” It’s accurate, near as I can tell, and a team hoping to be in contention like Cleveland is would be foolish to leave a prospect like Bauer in the minors with the way he’s blowing away hitters right now.

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  3. d_i says:

    Color me a skeptic. I’ll go by the 4.92 career ERA.

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  4. Simon says:

    It’s always possible they want Bauer to have more time in AAA to bed in his mechanical changes, and they want to see what they have with Tomlin, who was perfectly adequate in 2011, before he says he started to feel the injury in 2012.

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    • Simon says:

      And Tomlin would have won the spot on merit out of the gate except that Carrasco had no options left. He’s done very little wrong all year.

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