Josh Tomlin's last outing for the Indians allowed the pitcher to take a deep breath. His long road back from Tommy John surgery was complete, he turned in a strong performance and he collected his first win in nearly two years.
As he prepares for Sunday's start against the Rays opposite Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer, Tomlin can relax with the knowledge that his hard work and patience paid off. Tomlin looked like his old self on the hill against Minnesota on Tuesday, and he will look to build on the outing in the finale of this three-game set with the Rays.
"It was huge for me just to get that boost of confidence," Tomlin said. "I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and get that confidence going, where you feel like you can help this team. That was the main thing for me, to get back and get back to a level where I knew I could help this team win.
"To be able to go out there the first day, and the way the guys swung the bat and played defense behind me, it was just reassuring that your stuff will play again. You never know coming back. You're in Triple-A facing guys and you see it's working there, but it's a different animal up here."
Over 6 2/3 innings, Tomlin limited the Twins to one run on four hits and ended with four strikeouts and one walk. The lone run relinquished by the righty came via a solo homer by Chris Colabello, snapping a scoreless streak of 26 innings for Tomlin, dating back to his stint with Triple-A Columbus.
Prior to returning to the Majors, Tomlin posted a 2.06 ERA with 28 strikeouts against nine walks and a 0.87 WHIP in five outings at Triple-A.
Tomlin's win was his first in the big leagues since July 5, 2012.
"To get that first win, that can be really uplifting," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "It's like, 'OK, I remember how to do this. I remember how to win here.' The thing about Tomlin is he's always going to do the right things to keep you in a game and give the team a chance to win. It was huge for him to come out and pitch like that his first outing."
In Archer's last start, he surrendered three runs on seven hits and finished with six strikeouts and a walk in five innings against the Orioles. Over his past five turns for Tampa Bay, Archer has posted a 6.59 ERA, allowing 20 runs in 27 1/3 innings.
Right-handed batters have hit at a .364 clip against Archer, while lefties have posted a .220 average against him.
"The biggest thing with him is his fastball command and his being better able to locate his slider," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Righties have been beating him up. It's unbelievable. That's because his slider is not in the right spot. We worked so hard in Spring Training to get him better against lefties and now he's having trouble with righties."
Archer is not worrying too much about the early trend yet.
"Six games in, it's hard to dwell on what righties or lefties are hitting off me," Archer said. "Overall, I've been giving up too many hits. I haven't been executing pitches. I'm trying to be too nasty. I'm putting myself and the team in tough situations."
Indians: Ax needs sharpening
The Tribe removed John Axford from the closer's role on Saturday, but manager Terry Francona said the move is only temporarily. Until Axford regains a comfort zone on the mound, and shows he can cut down his inflated walk rate, Cleveland will keep Cody Allen, Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw available for the ninth inning.
"We talked to Ax," Francona said. "And we told him that, 'Hey, man, for now, we're going to kind of get you out of that role and try to get you in some situations where we can get you on a roll again.'"
Rays: Cobb recovering
Alex Cobb, who is coming back off a strained left oblique, will throw a simulated game of four innings or 60 pitches in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Monday and could be back in the Rays' starting rotation by the end of the month. Cobb might be cleared to begin a rehab assignment next Saturday.
"He's not far off," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn received a scheduled day off on Saturday. With Cleveland in the midst of a six-game, seven-day stretch on artificial turf (Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and Rogers Centre in Toronto), Bourn was given the day to rest his legs. He recently missed four games due to tightness in his left hamstring.
• Yunel Escobar was back in the Rays' lineup at shortstop Saturday after sustaining a right thumb contusion in the first inning against Cleveland on Friday night.
Said Maddon: "He's fine. He's ready to rock and roll. All the tests were negative. I think his thumb just got in the way of a ground ball."
• Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow) threw 40 fastballs and changeups off the mound in the bullpen Saturday and five or six curveballs on flat ground. Hellickson, who is aiming to return in late June, is slated to throw another bullpen session Tuesday.