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.