Tomlin wraps up comeback year with strong start

Right-hander tosses 6 1/3 innings vs. Red Sox to finish season 7-2 in 10 starts

Tomlin wraps up comeback year with strong start

CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin looked at the list and smiled. There was a mix of pride and disbelief as he read the names below his own: Zack Greinke. Jake Arrieta. Clayton Kershaw. Max Scherzer. Jacob deGrom. Tomlin ranked above them all.

"That's pretty cool," Tomlin said after Cleveland's 8-2 win over the Red Sox on Friday night. "That's really cool. They have a few more innings than I do -- like 200 more innings."
 

Francona on Tomlin, Santana

The list was the Major League leaders in WHIP this season, and yes, an inning specification was required in order for Tomlin's name to appear. Among all starters with at least 60 innings pitched this season, Tomlin is first with a 0.84 WHIP. It is a number that would undoubtedly rise over a full season, but it is also a glimpse into what has been an incredible comeback for the right-hander.

A candidate for a rotation job in Spring Training, Tomlin's season was delayed before Opening Day arrived due to a right shoulder injury that necessitated surgery in early April. Tomlin was already a veteran of Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, so returning from an arm problem is an unfortunate area of expertise for Cleveland's longest-tenured player.

Tomlin was asked Friday if he could recall the last time his arm felt as strong as it does now.

He paused, squinted as he thought, and then smiled as a definitive answer escaped him.

"What year was I in college?" Tomlin replied to an eruption of laughter.

Tomlin can joke about it now because he is coming off a strong 10-start showing with Cleveland this year and he is now embarking on what should be a normal offseason. In his final outing of 2015, the 30-year-old righty logged 6 1/3 solid frames, limiting the Red Sox to two runs, which both came via a towering tapemeasure shot off the bat of slugger David Ortiz.

Ortiz's two-run blast

Overall, Tomlin ended 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA with two complete games since rejoining the Major League rotation in mid-August. In 65 2/3 innings, the crafty righty limited batters to a .195 average, struck out 57 and issued only eight walks. Tomlin's signature -- pinpoint command -- was there, alongside an improved curveball that allowed for a higher strike rate than previous years.

Now the Indians feel a little better about their rotation depth chart as they plan for 2016.

"The walk rate is unbelievable. The walks to strikeouts -- it's crazy," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "I think he's just in a spot where he finally feels like he doesn't have to guide the ball in there to make his shoulder or elbow not hurt, and he can use that command that he has. When he can do that, you're going to have a tough time against him that night.

"It makes a lot of decisions a little easier this winter for us. He's going to be a big part of our team moving forward. That's a good feeling to have, instead of being out there searching for someone."

Cleveland's front four of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer garner the most attention -- understandably so -- but Tomlin and rookie Cody Anderson offer the Indians two more intriguing options for the fifth spot next year.

"I just don't want to see guys like Josh overlooked," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's so good at what he does, and he's such a good teammate and he's such a hard worker, that I want to make sure people know that, because he's one of the very best."

Tomlin's 10 starts this season helped reinforce that stance for Francona and his staff.

"I take a lot of pride in just giving this team a chance to win," Tomlin said. "I was fortunate enough to be able to do that in those 10 starts I had, obviously except for the Kansas City game. I felt good as a whole, and I feel good about being able to help this team win as many games as I possibly could."

Asked if he is ready for a normal offseason, Tomlin laughed.

"That'll be nice," he said. "That'll be nice to be able to go home and work out and get stronger and get prepared for the long haul next year."

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.