Happy to be back, Tomlin stifles powerful Yanks

Indians right-hander has been sharp in first two starts since shoulder surgery

Happy to be back, Tomlin stifles powerful Yanks

NEW YORK -- The cowboy boots sitting at the base of Josh Tomlin's locker are a welcome sight for the Indians. For the bulk of the past three years, the veteran right-hander has been missing from the clubhouse, stranded out in Arizona while working through a comeback from injury.

On Thursday night in the Bronx, Tomlin was not only back, but he looked more like himself than he has in some time for the Tribe. The soft-spoken starter with the soft-velocity fastball handcuffed New York's powerful lineup for seven innings en route to a 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Just mention Tomlin's name, and then watch a smile creep across manager Terry Francona's face.

"It's fun to talk about him," Francona said. "We're all pulling for him."

The first-place Yankees might not agree.

In the homer-happy Stadium, Tomlin would have seemed like an ideal matchup for New York, which is tied for second in the American League in home runs (162) this year. Homers have been a thorn in Tomlin's side throughout his career and Alex Rodriguez continued that trend with a towering 426-foot shot to the left-field seats to open the fourth inning against the righty.

The thing is, that is all Tomlin allowed.

In fact, in his two starts back with the Indians, following a comeback from preseason surgery on his right shoulder, Tomlin has allowed three runs -- all on solo homers.

"Go figure," Tomlin said with a laugh.

When he is on top of his game, Tomlin specializes in damage control, and that was certainly on display in New York. Take the third inning, for example. The right-hander allowed a leadoff double to Chase Headley, issued a one-out walk to Stephen Drew and later found himself in a two-out jam with runners on second and third. Tomlin then ended a seven-pitch battle with Brett Gardner with an 89-mph four-seamer, which was beaten into the infield for a groundout.

Tomlin escapes a jam

"He's around the plate so much, he's going to give up some home runs," Francona said. "But, if they're solos, for the most part, you're going to be OK. Generally, he makes the other team beat him and, when he pitches like that, it's hard."

Through two outings since rejoining the Indians' rotation, Tomlin has allowed only three runs on seven hits in 13 1/3 innings, piling up 11 strikeouts against only two walks. The rust of the shoulder injury -- or the elbow injury that cost him most of 2013 -- has not been present.

"The guy's a competitor. He's going to make pitches. He's going to battle," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "He knows what he's doing. He's thrown a lot of innings in this league. He's made a lot of starts and he knows exactly what he's doing. He knows what it takes to win."

Tomlin is just happy to be back.

"The uncertainty [comes from] the fact that I've been hurt for two of the past three years," Tomlin said. "But, for me, going out there and working, there's never uncertainty about that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.