When I saw Josh Tomlin start against the Texas Rangers last Tuesday in Goodyear, he looked almost untouchable the first time through the order. The second time through the Texas lineup, they pummeled him; the final line was 8R, 4ER, 8H in 3IP. This was a Texas lineup that was without many of its stars – Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler were not in Goodyear. I mentioned already that it was a bit of a concern, but it’s spring training. Pitchers are fine tuning their arsenals and getting in shape for the regular season.
After he had another bad outing against Kansas City today, it’s enough to make me ask – what’s the deal with Tomlin? In just four innings and 67 pitches today, the Royals got 10 hits and 6 earned runs. Five of those ten hits (50% for the math impaired) were extra base knocks; one of the five was a 2-run home run by Eric Hosmer. Manny Acta said that Tomlin, a contact pitcher, was hindered by the strong winds blowing out in Surprise today. While I want to believe this, or at least give credit to a Kansas City offense that finished 6th in runs scored in the American League last season, the excuse falls a bit flat for me.
The next three Indians pitchers, Nick Hagadone, Chen-Chang Lee, and Frank Herrmann, threw five scoreless innings. While some of the Kansas City starters may have left by this point, why did the wind not hinder these three pitchers’ performance? Surely some of the Royals hitters made contact against them; yet the ball obviously stayed in the park. This story in the Plain Dealer pointed out that a long Carlos Santana fly ball was knocked down by the wind at the outfield wall. Was this the same wind that was helping the ball fly out of the park for Kansas City? Granted it was a stormy, crazy weather day in Arizona – it’s possible the wind was swirling and changing direction throughout the game.
Tomlin’s spring ERA currently sits at 10.50. While it’s just spring training, I think this is still cause for some concern. Opening Day is less than three weeks away at this point, and Tomlin doesn’t really seem to be fooling that many batters. His stuff has never been overwhelming, but he’s succeeded by locating the ball and keeping a cool head under pressure. I hope that his appearances start to improve as we approach April 5; otherwise that cool demeanor is about to be tested in a big way.