By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CHICAGO: Josh Tomlin made his 2013 debut Thursday night, exactly 13 months after his last appearance for the Indians.
Between outings, Tomlin underwent an operation to reconstruct his right elbow and endured the lengthy rehab process that follows Tommy John surgery.
Returning after such a long absence can be a little traumatic.
“I felt great,” Tomlin said Friday. “Don’t get me wrong, it was a little nerve-wracking, well, not nerve-wracking, it’s that you have some anxiety to get back out there. But if that ever left me, I think I’d retire.”
Tomlin is not a reliever by trade, but working briefly in a 14-2 game was a stress-free way to get him back into the routine of pitching.
“The circumstances were not perfect for him, and I told him that,” said manager Terry Francona, referring to the fact that Tomlin is a career starter. “That doesn’t mean he’s not a big part of our future. I said to him that next year is his target.”
Tomlin did not give up a run but allowed two hits to the Chicago White Sox. During the outing, catcher’s interference by Kelly Shoppach put a runner on base, but Tomlin brushed it off.
“He threw strikes and kept his composure,” Francona said.
When the catching glitch happened, “Tomlin was like, ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Francona said. “I don’t know him that well, but I do know there’s not one player in that clubhouse who doesn’t respect him.”
Tomlin wasn’t just out there to get his work in.
“My main goal in a game like that was to throw strikes and save the bullpen as much as I could,” he said.
Tomlin wanted to stay out there longer, but he knows the drill.
“I would have had liked to for sure,” he said. “But I understand the situation. A lot of guys needed to get their work in, so this was a good way for me to get my feet wet.”
Tomlin didn’t mean that literally, but for most of the time he was on the mound, heavy rains drenched U.S. Cellular Field, making everyone’s job a little harder.
Over the winter, Tomlin thinks his objective will be go home, work out and get stronger. Next spring, there will be plenty of competition for spots in the rotation.
Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber will return for certain. Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir can be free agents, and General Manager Chris Antonetti hasn’t said whether he will try to re-sign one or both. If both return, Tomlin will be one of seven legitimate contenders for jobs.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.