MINNEAPOLIS -- Changes could be coming. In the wake of another subpar performance by starter Josh Tomlin, Indians manager Manny Acta admitted that the ballclub's decision-makers need to sit down and discuss the ongoing issues within the rotation.
Tomlin's struggles have been part of a larger problem, one that has kept Cleveland from reaching its perceived potential so far this season. The inconsistency of the Tribe's starting staff reared its ugly head on Friday night, when the Indians were dealt a lopsided 11-0 loss at the hands of the Twins at Target Field.
"We're going to sit down and talk and try to figure things out," Acta said. "We have to make things better around here, that's not a secret."
Tomlin surrendered eight runs in four forgettable innings that served as a drastic contrast to the complete-game gem spun by Minnesota lefty Scott Diamond. The Indians' bats went missing, while the the Twins' lineup did what it could to give Tomlin whiplash. The righty was pounded for 10 hits, including two home runs, en route to a loss.
The Indians are now 4 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox in the American League Central.
It was a discouraging defeat one day after Cleveland headed to the airport on an emotional high, following Thursday's incredible comeback win at home against Justin Verlander and the Tigers. The disaster 24 hours later at Target Field nullified any notion that the Indians were hitting the road riding a wave of momentum.
"There's no such thing as momentum," Acta said.
There is an old baseball adage that says momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Along those lines, Tomlin's outing did a number on the Tribe, and possibly on his job security. One of Cleveland's most consistent and reliable starters a year ago, the right-hander has labored to harness the kind of command displayed last season.
Dating back to June 14, Tomlin has gone 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA for Cleveland, allowing 33 earned runs on 56 hits over 42 1/3 innings. During that stretch, the right-hander has surrendered 10 home runs, including one in the first inning of each of his past three outings. In the first inning this season, Tomlin has given up 22 earned runs in 16 innings for a 12.38 ERA.
"You don't ever want to go out there and have a season like this," said Tomlin, who is 5-8 with a 5.87 ERA this year. "You can sit there and say, 'That stuff happens every now and then,' or say, 'People have bad years.' But today was inexcusable to me. That was just a bad performance."
Acta was not willing to commit to having Tomlin starting when his turn rolls around again on Wednesday.
"The game just ended," Acta said. "We're not going to be reacting on a bad outing. We're going to have to sit down and look at all the options and stuff like that. No one is sitting here and saying he's not going to be starting in five days, but obviously it's been a recurring problem and we're going to have to look at options. And he's not the only one."
Indeed, Tomlin is not alone in his woes.
Veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe has gone 2-8 with a 7.59 ERA over his past 12 starts. Lowe's situation is much different, considering his age and contract situation. Unlike Lowe, Tomlin could easily be shifted to a long-relief role in the bullpen, or the pitcher could be optioned to the Minors if he does not remain in the rotation.
It is also worth noting that the non-waiver Trade Deadline looms on Tuesday.
Tomlin did not search for excuses after his latest lapse.
"It's my fault," Tomlin said. "There's a reason why we lost the game today. It's because of me."
Tomlin yielded a three-run blast to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in the first to put Cleveland behind, 3-0. Minnesota then powered its way to an 8-0 lead with a five-run outburst in the fourth that was ignited by a string of five consecutive two-out hits. The final blow in that series was a three-run homer off the bat of slugger Josh Willingham.
The blast was the 26th of the season for Willingham, who added an RBI single off reliever Jeremy Accardo in a two-run push by the Twins in the sixth inning.
"You give up a couple hits here and there that you don't want to give up," Tomlin said, "and then next thing you know the big guy comes up and you give up a home run, and it just kind of snowballs on you. You've got to prevent that from happening. You've got to prevent the big inning from happening."
Of course, Cleveland's struggles on offense did not help matters on Friday night.
Diamond blanked the Indians over nine innings to pick up his second win over the Tribe this season. In his latest effort, Diamond was perfect through 4 2/3 innings before giving up consecutive singles to Travis Hafner and Jose Lopez in the fifth inning.
On the night, Diamond scattered three hits and ended with six strikeouts and no walks.
"He was pounding the strike zone," Indians catcher Lou Marson said. "He was getting ahead and had us chasing some bad pitches."
That was what Tomlin did so well last year.
"He'll figure it out," Marson said. "He's a competitor. He'll definitely figure it out, because we need him. We definitely need him to turn it around and get it going."