Ugly line belies Tomko's solid start

Ugly line belies Tomko's solid start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don't take that Brett Tomko pitching line in Friday's box score too seriously. At least that's Royals manager Trey Hillman's view on that matter.

The line shows Tomko went 4 1/3 innings, giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk.

"Great outing," Hillman said. "The line was bad, but with what he did, it was very good. He took the bullpen session right into the game."

That was a bullpen session earlier this week held by pitching coach Bob McClure for Tomko after his last outing, rocky performance against the Chicago Cubs.

Some tinkering was due after that 2 1/3 innings in which the veteran righty surrendered nine hits and six runs. After all, the Royals signed Tomko with the intention of making him the No. 4 starter in the rotation.

"Even the Cubs game I didn't feel horrible about because I got to two strikes. I was ahead of everybody, I was 0-2, 1-2," Tomko said.

Yet, when he tried to put batters away, the Cubbies made him pay.

"I didn't feel like I was walking people, I didn't feel like I was all over the place. I made bad two-strike pitches. After that game, I was able to look at it and put it in perspective. That's what Spring Training is about," Tomko said.

The bullpen noodling took the two-strike dilemma into account and McClure also wanted to take a look at a long-dormant Tomko pitch, the curveball.

"I've thrown one the last few years, but it just hasn't been a weapon. It's just been kind of a show-me pitch," Tomko said.

"I throw everything pretty hard -- hard slider, hard cutter, hard changeup -- so it's just trying something out. You never know ... it's just something I'll try out for the next couple weeks and see if it's something I'll keep."

Hillman was encouraged.

"It was an adjustment he made in the bullpen and it's going to keep the hitters off balance more instead of just looking hard. He took a little velocity off his change-up, too, with just a little different grip," Hillman said.

In truth, Tomko was not hit hard on Friday by the Rangers in their 10-8 victory. In the four-run fourth, Tomko issued his only walk, which was followed by three bloop singles and one hard-hit ball, Ben Broussard's double.

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The fifth was similarly unfortunate. Third baseman Jason Smith made a bad throw for an error. Center fielder Damon Hollins was blinded by the sun on Kevin Mench's high fly ball, which fell in for a triple. Ramon Vazquez's popup fell safely between shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and second baseman Mike Aviles.

"The wind," Hillman said. "Tony called that ball and didn't realize how far it was going to take it."

Tomko took the mishaps in stride.

"I think I've had five hits from the sun here -- it's been crazy," he said.

It's just part of the Spring Training shakeout for the veteran right-hander.

"I've been around long enough to know it's not what's up on the scoreboard," Tomko said. "It's how you feel. I think Mac and Trey were pleased with it. That's the good thing about Spring Training. It's not permanent on your record."

Tomko thought back to last spring when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I had the best Spring Training I ever had in my career last year and it didn't start off too hot," Tomko said. "I didn't do too hot at all the whole year."

Yep, he was an ugly 2-11 when the Dodgers released him last August.

His take on being the Royals' No. 4 starter at this point?

"If that's what they want, I'm down with it," Tomko said. "I felt like I threw the ball well today and I don't feel I've been horrible since I've been here. The Cubs game, yeah, here and there. Other than that, I feel like I'm progressing the way I need to."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.