Francona: Tomlin deserves help, not demotion

Francona: Tomlin deserves help, not demotion

ARLINGTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona has never been one to make a rash decision in the immediate aftermath of a demoralizing defeat. After the latest setback for starter Josh Tomlin, and with a spot on the October stage at stake, Cleveland might be close to considering its alternatives.

Following Thursday's 9-0 loss to the Rangers, Francona came to Tomlin's defense rather than hint at any warnings of rotation shuffling to come. There might not be a more revered teammate than Tomlin in Cleveland's clubhouse, and his status as the longest-tenured member of the organization speaks to his work ethic. Those characteristics have earned Francona's trust, even now.

"When guys have a tough time, I don't think we want to run from them," Francona said. "We want to help them through it. And, if anybody in that room is going to give you everything they have, it's J.T. That's just kind of how I feel about it."

Inside the visitors' clubhouse at Globe Life Park, Tomlin made no excuses.

"We take pride in trying to be the backbone of the team," he said of the starters. "Right now, the past few turns I've been out there, I haven't really given our team a chance to win. That's something where I've got to go back to the drawing board, try to get better and try to help this team win."

Tomlin's latest effort consisted of 4 1/3 innings, representing the fifth time in his past nine starts that he has exited in fewer than five frames. Four of those abbreviated outings have come this month. The right-hander prides himself on limiting traffic and halting the running game. Texas drew a pair of walks, stole a base and collected six hits off the starter.

When the smoke cleared, Tomlin had allowed eight runs (seven earned), including six via a pair of three-run home runs. Carlos Gomez launched his shot in the second and Adrian Beltre followed suit in the fifth. Tomlin has always been prone to homers, but the solo shots have been few and far between of late. He has allowed 30 runs on his past 15 homers allowed combined, stretching over his past nine outings.

Tomlin now leads the Majors with 34 homers allowed and he is three shy of matching Luis Tiant's club record (37 in 1969) for home runs surrendered in one season. Tomlin's rate of 2.1 homers per nine innings is the highest single-season mark in team history (minimum 80 innings).

"You're always concerned when you're giving up this many home runs," Tomlin said. "For me, it's limiting the damage before that, trying to prevent the crooked numbers as best as I can."

That has been a problem lately, though Tomlin is not alone.

Fellow Indians starter Danny Salazar has gone 1-2 with a 10.41 ERA in his past six outings, following a season-opening stretch that saw him go 10-3 with a 2.36 ERA en route to his first All-Star nod. Similarly, Tomlin began this season posting a 9-1 ledger to go with a 3.21 ERA in his first 15 starts. The righty has gone 2-7 with a 7.51 ERA since that point.

Said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis: "We've got five guys who I still feel confident every time they go out that they're going to give us a chance to win the game. And I mean it when I say five guys. Josh is one of those guys. [Trevor Bauer]. Danny. All these guys, I think we have a good chance to win the game when they go out. We haven't lost any confidence in him, and I hope he knows that."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. 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.