7:25am: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that Tomlin will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League game for the Braves and could potentially break camp with the club as a long reliever. If not, it appears he’ll head to Triple-A Gwinnett.
7:04am: The Braves announced Thursday that they’ve signed right-hander Josh Tomlin to a minor league contract. He’ll be in Major League camp for the remainder of Spring Training and add some depth to a pitching staff that is currently dealing with numerous injuries both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Tomlin, a Meister Sports client, opted out of a minor league deal with the Brewers yesterday.
Tomlin, 34, has spent the entirety of his big league career with the Indians to this point and was a fairly regular member of the Cleveland rotation from 2011-17. During that time, he posted a combined 4.66 ERA with 6.2 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9 over the life of 755 1/3 innings. He’s a quintessential soft-tosser, averaging 88.7 mph on his fastball in his career (87.8 mph over the past three seasons) but also demonstrating pinpoint control. Tomlin has averaged just 1.3 walks per nine innings pitched and has never allowed an average of more than 2.3 BB/9 in any single season.
Last season was a rough one for the veteran Tomlin, who pitched to a 6.14 ERA and yielded a stunning 25 home runs in 70 1/3 innings of work. The long ball has always been an issue for Tomlin, though certainly never to that extent. Tomlin’s homer-to-fly ball ratio leaped more than seven percentage points to a fluky 21.4 percent last year. That mark seems highly likely to regress, and a move to the National League figures to help to an extent as well.
The Braves had great success with a similar late-spring signing last year when another AL Central castoff, Anibal Sanchez, revitalized his career in Atlanta. Expecting that level of resurgence wouldn’t be reasonable for any pitcher, but Tomlin does seem to have a chance to log some innings for the Braves early in the season. Atlanta’s top starter, Mike Foltynewicz, will open the season on the injured list, and fellow righty Kevin Gausman could do the same. Right-hander Mike Soroka was optioned to Triple-A yesterday after shoulder troubles limited him for most of camp. Even if the Braves opt to deploy a number of younger options in the rotation, Tomlin could provide some support in a long relief role for a bullpen that will be without both A.J. Minter and Darren O’Day.
In 15 innings with the Brewers this spring, Tomlin allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits (three homers) and two walks with nine strikeouts.