Josh Tomlin Focuses On Healthy 2014

It’s a bright, sunny day at Mike Carter Field as the six-foot one-inch frame of Whitehouse native and Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin took the mound Friday afternoon. Tomlin pitched the first half of the first inning during Tyler Junior College’s intrasquad scrimmage last week with close friend and TJC assistant baseball coach Travis Chick pitching the bottom half of the frame.

Tomlin had Tommy John surgery in August of 2012 and ever since then, he’s been rehabbing to return to his previous form.

“For me, it was a 12-month process after I had surgery. It takes a full year to get back to where you’re at and you never stop rehabbing because you feel that much better after having it,” Tomlin said. “It’s a grueling process but it’s been very helpful. It’s a process but you have to go with it and the results are what they are because of it.”

Tomlin focused on recovering throughout most of the 2013 season but made it back up to the Indians at the tail-end of the season pitching two innings of relief in September. Tomlin said he sometimes gets excited on the mound due to being close to where he started.

“This is probably the first off-season I’ve had in a year and a half or two years where I’ve felt healthy and that I’ve felt good,” Tomlin said. “Being healthy again, I feel like sometimes I kind of get underneath the ball because I feel great. That’s why I come out here to work with Travis (Chick).”

Chick and Tomlin have been friends for a long time. Both went to Whitehouse High School together and have both made trips to the Major Leagues: Chick with the Seattle Mariners and Tomlin with the Cleveland Indians. Tomlin said that friendship has helped him become a better pitcher.

“He’s watched me pitch ever since high school so he kind of knows what I do and what I need to do,” Tomlin said. “To have him out here helping me is huge. He knows the mechanics of the game and the history of the game and that’s why I feel like it’s beneficial for me to come out here and work with him.”

And the two worked together last Friday afternoon as they warmed up before the intrasquad game. Tomlin said it was different being back at Mike Carter Field even though some things never change.

“I played some games here when I was in high school against Robert E. Lee,” Tomlin said. “It’s been ten years but still looks and feels the same. It’s weird.”

Tomlin used the inning as an extension of his rehab and enjoyed working in a live-game environment.

“It felt good to come out here, face some hitters, and try to get some work in. They put some good at-bats together and that’s what I was looking for,” Tomlin said. “I wanted to get in pickoffs and holding runners on. It’s the little stuff that you don’t normally do in the off-season. It’s good to get a feel for it so it’s not foreign to you when you get to spring training.”

Some of the TJC players looked on with excitement at getting to see and work with a major league player and Tomlin said he enjoyed his time with the Apaches.

“I was in their shoes at one point.  I played at Angelina College so for me, seeing guys come out there and do the same thing was cool,” Tomlin said. “It was fun to be part of that and it’s an honor for me to come out here and work with these guys. They’re a good group of kids and they have a good team. For me to come out here and experience that with them is a lot of fun.”

He added that he remembers dreaming about playing major league baseball just like many college players.

“Being a pro baseball player is something I set out to do when I was four years old. That was a dream of mine and a goal I had set for myself,” Tomlin said. “I had a vision of being able to do this. As far as it happening right now, it’s still kind of surreal. I feel blessed to do this and it’s something special.”

Tomlin headed out to Spring Training on Monday and said he has several goals for the upcoming year.

“My main goal is to be healthy all year,” Tomlin said. “I want to go out there and log as many innings as I can and try to help my team win.”

The Cleveland Indians open spring training on February 26 against the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, Arizona. They will open the 2014 regular season on the road against the Oakland Athletics on March 31.

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Adam Eaton Talks New Role With White Sox

Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton answered fan questions this morning as part of a conference call with fans emceed by White Sox public address announcer Gene Honda.

Eaton spent the majority of his professional career with the Arizona Diamondbacks making his Major League debut with them in 2012. However, a three-team trade sent him to the White Sox, Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks, and Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels.

Eaton’s first big welcome to White Sox fans was during SoxFest and he said he enjoyed the experience.

“It was very special to meet the fans because I think the fan base is important to any team,” Eaton said. “The Sox have been around for a long time. It was great to see the city. It was nice to see the field covered in snow but it was a great event and I was excited to be part of it.”

Weather was a popular topic and Eaton said he doesn’t see cold weather as a disadvantage to the team.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for the weather they’re having there (Chicago) now but I’m used to that stuff and I think it’s an advantage to play in that type of climate,” Eaton said. “Baseball players are creatures of habit and you have a certain way about how you get warmed up and get moving before you go hit. There are teams that aren’t used to that. They don’t have that type of climate which gives us the advantage.”

He added that college baseball helped condition him to the weather.

“I played in the MAC, Mid-American Conference, with Miami-Ohio so this is familiar to me,” Eaton said. “I played in Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, and Northern Illinois in March and April so it’s not going to be key for me. The key is to move around, get your body going, and be mentally tough and not be worried when you’re hitting the ball off the end of the bat and it’s ringing in your toes. Keeping that mental toughness goes a long way.”

Moving into the American League will present several challenges for Eaton but he said he’s ready to tackle them.

“I think the biggest thing going from the NL to AL is hitting and learning the pitchers all over again. I think I finally got comfortable towards the end of last year knowing the National League pitchers,” Eaton said. “Going into the AL, it’s just about learning about guys and how they attack you and how they go about it. Another thing is I’m usually hitting behind a pitcher. It will be different having a guy there that can run a little bit and that kind of opens things up also.”

He added that stealing bases will be slightly different due to learning about AL pitchers and catchers.

“Pitchers are basically the same type of creature. They are guys of habit that tend to follow the same patterns but I need to learn the catchers, how they throw, and how quick they are to second base,” Eaton said. “Sometimes the guys are opened up. They’re showing signs and you can kind of peek in every now and again. I base how a catcher throws to what kind of jump I can get.”

Spring training is where Eaton said he plans on doing the most learning.

“A very intelligent man said once you learn a lot by watching and for me, spring training is key. Even though guys aren’t really showing their stuff, you still watch their timing and how they go about their business,” Eaton said. “I’m not a big video guy. It’s a different angle than my eye and I think the eye test goes a lot further and one of the beauties of the game is talking baseball. It’s going into the clubhouse after a spring training game and talking to a veteran about this guy attacks you at the plate and so on.”

Going into the 2014 season, Eaton said he plans on focusing on boosting his on-base percentage.

“I put a lot of weight in on-base percentage. If I’m hitting .240 or .250 and my on-base is around .300 or .400, I’m doing my job. I’m getting on base. I’m getting chances to steal. I’m getting chances to score,” Eaton said. “You can’t steal first base, which is what they always like to say, but at the same time if my on-base is that high, it means I’m competing every at-bat. Getting on base brings runs and with runs come wins.”

Eaton lives in Arizona and has already been working out with other White Sox players preparing for the new season and said they’re ready.

“The hitting camp was awesome. I enjoyed it and got to meet the front office people along with some new players. To be out here and meet those guys early and build a relationship with those guys goes a long way,” Eaton said. “I really do think the relationship and being around the guys now will help in September.”

The Chicago White Sox open spring training on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers on February 28.

Michael Young Retires As A Ranger

Effort. Self-Reliance. Mental toughness. Character. Class. Those were a few of the adjectives used to describe Michael Young at his retirement press conference Friday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington. However, Texas Rangers’ TV broadcaster Steve Busby said another teammate had the best description of Young.

“Ian Kinsler said it best when he said Michael Young is a great ballplayer, great man, great husband, and great father,” said Busby. “I don’t know how to sum it up any better.”

Young said he had mixed feelings about making the decision to retire.

“I’ve hit every possible emotion and back. It was a tough decision and an easy one. The Dodgers offered me a great role. I felt like I had a spot where I could have racked up a ton of at-bats but that wasn’t right for me,” Young said. “I’ve got three boys at home which is the driving reason why I’m leaving the game. I didn’t feel like I could be there constantly for them. It’s not a matter of going out and bringing home paychecks or saying you’re a dad. You have to dig in and be there with them through every success and every failure. I want them to learn from me on a daily basis.”

Young said despite playing for two organizations outside of Texas, the Rangers hold a special place in his heart.

“I played in different places this past year. I played in Philly and loved it. I played in LA and loved it. But the time I spent in Texas were some of the best years of my life,” Young said. “I came in confident and stubborn with a lot to learn and in a lot of ways, I was still immature. I figured it all out here. Everything that happened in Texas made me a better person.”

Young added that it also included the fans.

“I can’t say enough for the fans and will never forget the support that I got. It was my honor to be able to play for them on a daily basis,” Young said. “People have been saying a lot of thank yous but it’s the other way around. I owe this community everything.”

General manager and President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels said he thinks that Young connected with the community so well due to his work ethic.

“When you look back at his track record and how he came to this point, nothing was given to Michael. He had to earn it every step of the way,” Daniels said. “It was through hard work, diligence, and grace every time he earned a spot and I think that personifies in a small way what he means to the organization. He had a no frills, blue-collar mentality. It’s why he’s so revered in the community and how he connected so well with the community and his manager Ron Washington.”

Washington said Young was the type of player every coach dreams of working with.

“When I arrived here, I was a novice as far as managing goes and there were things I was trying to accomplish. Michael never once wavered. He was a true professional and showed a lot of patience. He brought a positive attitude every single day and always showed class,” Washington said. “Class isn’t something you just have. It’s something you acquire through the years. People of character know they’re on display 24/7 and they know whatever they do is always an influence on someone else. That’s how you know you have a top quality guy and as a manger those are the type of people you like to have in the clubhouse as a leader.”

Young thanked many people including his family, coach, and teammates for being with him for every step of his career.

“Wash is the best. We had a fantastic, honest relationship. We were always open to each other’s idea and knew the Rangers were a sleeping giant,” Young said. “The unbelievable coaching staff spent long hours working with me. The clubhouse guys made it feel like a second home for me and I can’t say enough for my teammates in Texas. I’m so thrilled to be able to call everyone I played with friends and they’ll be friends for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss all of them.”

He added that he kept up with the Rangers this past season and stayed in touch with the players and coaches.

“A lot of my close friends still play for this team,” Young said. “Those are the kind of things that don’t just end because you switch uniforms. They’re things you build up for a lifetime and they don’t go away.”

Young said the one thing he wished he could have done during his career was win a World Series but knows he has played for a championship team.

“I’m over it but I’m not. When I think about it, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. In 2010, I felt like we just got outplayed and they beat us. In 2011, no disrespect by it, but we were a championship team. The Cardinals are a great organization and have a great team but we were better,” said Young before laughing. “I can say that now that I’m retired.”

Young said he does plan on coming back to baseball but has no timetable set for his return.

“It’s in my blood but as far as when I’ll get back into baseball, I don’t know,” Young said. “I do think it’s important to pass knowledge down. JD and Wash asked me to talk to some minor leaguers and I loved those days as much as game days. I always looked up to guys who spoke to us when I was a young player.”

Washington said Young gave back a lot during his time with the Rangers.

“I always use a statement: A person that’s a true professional is taught very well. The thing about Michael is the things he was taught, he was not afraid to pass it on which is what made the people around him better players,” Washington said. “He has initiative and wasn’t afraid to take a chance so that someone could learn from him.”

Daniels added that the Rangers are interested in having Young come back in the future for those reasons.

“I think about what our players can learn from him. He wants to be remembered as a great teammate and playing good every day,” Daniels said. “If there’s an opportunity to tap into this someway or somehow, we’re going to try. I think there’s a lot our guys can learn from him.”

For Young, he’s ready for the next step.

“I have spent almost half my life in professional baseball and loved every last bit of it. I never had a Plan B. I put all my eggs in the baseball basket since day one,” Young said. “I’m very happy for what I’ve done and happy with the people who have gotten me here. As much as I love baseball, it’s only part of our lives, a section, a chapter. I have a ton of competitive instincts that won’t go away but it’s going to be a fun next chapter.”