Josh Tomlin made his first Double-A rehab start for the Aeros, recovering from Tommy John surgery, and looked as much like the Josh Tomlin that Indians fans are used to as one could expect after such a long layoff.
Tomlin held the New Britain Rock Cats (55-61) scoreless through the two innings he was scheduled to pitch, and the Aeros won 7-3 in an Eastern League game.
“It felt good to get back out there,” Tomlin said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels tomorrow and how I bounce back from it.”
Conventional wisdom is that command is the last thing to return after Tommy John surgery, and that appeared to be true early for Tomlin, who hit the first batter he faced.
“That’s not how you want to lead off a game, obviously, but at least I missed on that side of the plate,” Tomlin said. “If I’m going to go in, I want to miss on that side. If I end up hitting a guy, so be it. I just don’t want the ball leaking out to the middle of the plate.”
Tomlin quickly erased his mistake by picking the runner off first base, and after an infield single he retired the next two batters for a 13-pitch first inning.
Tomlin’s second inning went smoother, as he retired the side in order on 15 pitches.
His fastball velocity sat between 88-90 mph, typical for Tomlin, and in the second inning he added three slow curveballs to his repertoire. All went for 72 mph and all went for strikes, including a swinging strike three to end his outing.
“Usually in a game as a starter, I want to use that pitch in the fifth or sixth inning when they haven’t seen it,” Tomlin said. “Obviously I didn’t have the luxury of going five or six, so it was something I wanted to work in that second inning and it worked out pretty well.”
After Tomlin’s successful two-inning rehab start, he said his goal was “to be healthy when those two innings are up and then throw three the next time.”
After the previous night’s disappointing 13-6 loss, which included a seven-run first inning, the Aeros (56-60) made it a point to strike first. And they did just that when Jesus Aguilar doubled in Ronny Rodriguez in the third inning.
“One good thing we’ve been doing throughout the season is regrouping and turning the page after games like that,” Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “That builds character, not only as a team but as individual players.”
The Aeros added on in the fourth with a sacrifice fly by Giovanny Urshela, scoring Tyler Holt, and a solo home run by Alex Monsalve.
The Rock Cats tied the score at 3-3 in the next inning when Jordan Parraz took Brett Brach deep for a two-run homer and Danny Santana tripled and scored on a single.
The tie didn’t last long, though, as Cedric Hunter smacked an RBI triple off the right field wall in the bottom half of the inning, scoring Rodriguez.
The Aeros added three insurance runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Moncrief, scoring Hunter, and a two-run double by Adam Abraham.
The Aeros recorded 15 hits, with everyone but Moncrief reaching base.
Notably absent from the Aeros lineup was Francisco Lindor, who was simply getting a day of rest.
Monsalve led the Aeros at the plate with two singles and the home run.