CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It may have been just one scoreless inning in a sea of recent poor outings, but Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin is hoping his appearance in the ninth inning of Monday’s game is something he can build on.
“It’s just one inning, so next time I get asked to take the ball, I’ll take the mound and try to put up another zero and go from there,” Tomlin said. “That’s the only thing I can do at this point.”
The month of August was a rough one for the right-handed hurler, posting an 11.48 ERA over six starts and getting unseated from the team’s starting rotation as a result. Tomlin’s ERA over that span ballooned from 3.43 to 4.89 and the home runs he allowed in that stretch all seemed to be knockout blows.
Now, the righty is trying to work out some of his issues on the fly while his club is fighting for a spot at the postseason table. That can be a frustrating place to be — knowing you need innings to potentially fix the problem but not wanting to hurt your club in the process.
“That’s part of it though,” Tomlin said. “When you struggle, you’re not giving your team a chance to win. There’s got to be a change made. There was a change made. My job is to go out there any time they ask me to take the ball and try to get outs. That’s my job right now. I’ll continue to try to work at it and get better at it, and when I get the ball, try to help this team win.”
One of the things the club noticed during Tomlin’s recent struggles was the increased use of his cutter compared to his four-seam fastball. The team felt it was possible that the righty had become a little too reliant on the pitch as the season progressed.
“We’ve identified things for the last month and we’ve been working on them in the ‘pen,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “Sometimes a guy gets tired and it’s tough to get that body going again. We’ve been working on his hips, really firing his hips for the last three weeks… Maybe that little bit of a blow, some days off, helped him.”
Even if the increased cutter usage played a part in Tomlin’s recent struggles, the righty does not want to lean on that as an excuse for his performance.
“You still have to execute those pitches,” he said. “Some of there was kind of leaking back over the plate. If I execute those pitches, today we’re not talking about this right now.
“There’s got to be a healthy balance between fastballs and cutters. The cutter plays off the fastball. If you throw too many cutters, it kind of eliminates a pitch that can be effective. I’ve got to get back to being more fastball dominant – the cutter plays off of that. You still have to execute when you throw those pitches, too. That’s not just one aspect of it.”
In Tomlin’s place on Monday, the Indians opted to go with a bullpen day anchored by Mike Clevinger as the starter. However, Clevinger lasted just 1 2/3 frames, and the Tribe’s bullpen yielded six runs, four earned, in their nine innings of work in the series-opening loss to the Houston Astros.
It seems difficult to imagine Cleveland using another bullpen day when the fifth spot in the rotation comes back around. Among the potential options they currently have, the team could elect to reinsert Tomlin back in the starting rotation.
Manager Terry Francona and the rest of the team’s brain trust were expected to further discuss the fifth spot in the rotation prior to Tuesday’s game. Once a decision is made, the players involved will be informed before anything is announced to the media.
While Tomlin is hoping to get another opportunity as a starter, he is prepared to do whatever is asked of him.
“Whatever they need me to do, whatever it is, four more days, five more days, I’ll start,” he said. “My job as of right now is to take the ball when they tell me to take the ball and try to get outs.”
Armstrong back: The Indians recalled righty Shawn Armstrong from Class-A Lake County prior to Tuesday’s game.
The right-handed reliever, who was originally optioned to Single-A last week in order to be recalled when the Captains’ season came to an end Monday, is now one of 13 relievers available — if you count Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin — in Cleveland’s bullpen.
Over the past 23 games between Single-A, Triple-A and the Majors, the righty has not allowed a run over 24 2/3 innings pitched, striking out 34 and walking just eight over that stretch.
Gomes update: Indians catcher Yan Gomes (DL, shoulder separation) is scheduled to DH with Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday and could be cleared to begin catching on his current Minor League rehab assignment as soon as this weekend.
Gomes returned to the Major League club on Tuesday to continue doing some pregame catching drills with Indians first base coach and former catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. He is not eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list until Sept. 16.
Tune squad: Shortstop Francisco Lindor has been using the theme from the movie Space Jam as his walk-up song for most of the 2016 season, and to honor the young shortstop for his song choice, John Jecker, an Indians fan, made Lindor a Tune Squad jersey, the same uniform Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes sported in the movie.
On Tuesday, Lindor wore the fan-made uniform on the field during pregame warm-ups.
Cookie credit: Tribe right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco has been nominated as the club’s nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award. Fans are encouraged to vote for the starter on Twitter and Facebook by using #VoteCookie. Annually, the Roberto Clemente Award recognizes of a player from each MLB team who best demonstrates extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
According to a press release from the Indians, some of Carrasco’s recent efforts include: Partnering with the United Way of Greater Cleveland on a book drive this summer, visiting patients at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, donating books and reading to children at Cleveland’s Luis Munoz Marin School, and speaking to a spanish-as-a-second-language class at Oberlin College.