Veteran pitcher Josh Tomlin joined the Braves this week with no promises, no expectations. But the 34-year-old right-hander will start the Braves’ last-ever exhibition game at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex Saturday, getting one opportunity to impress his new team before it decides whether to include him on the opening-day roster.
“It’s just go-pitch-Saturday,” Tomlin said Friday, “and they’ll make a decision from there.”
The Braves signed Tomlin to a minor-league contract Thursday after he opted out of a similar deal with the Milwaukee Brewers upon being informed he wouldn’t open the season on their big-league team.
Tomlin isn’t accustomed to bouncing between teams. Until this spring, he had spent his entire nine-year big-league career with the Cleveland Indians, mostly as a starter, posting a 61-53 record and 4.77 ERA. He started 55 regular-season games across the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He also started four postseason games in 2016.
But last season was by far his worst: In 32 games (nine starts), he was 2-5 with a 6.14 ERA, allowing 92 hits -- including a staggering 25 home runs -- in just 70 1/3 innings. He missed about a month with a hamstring injury.
“I got out of whack a little bit, and I couldn’t make the adjustment quick enough,” Tomlin said. “And it just kind of snowballed on me.”
If he opens this season with the Braves, it likely would be as a long reliever. Or he could open the season as a starter at Triple-A Gwinnett. But as another under-the-radar late-spring acquisition, Anibal Sanchez, showed with the Braves last season, you never know the unexpected ways in which a role might evolve.
“I don’t really know what to expect, to be honest with you,” Tomlin said. “I’m really just going into it blind and go out there and try to pitch and play baseball and let the cards fall where they may.”
He said he has no preference at this point in his career between starting or relieving.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Tomlin said. “My job is to go out there and get outs whenever I’m told to. I have an opportunity to play baseball, and I’m going to keep playing as long as I can.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to be on this team and trying to help them win the World Series.”
Never a hard thrower, Tomlin is known for his control (119 unintentional walks in 898-2/3 career innings, an average of 1.2 per nine innings pitched).
In Milwaukee’s camp this spring, he was 2-1 with a 4.80 ERA in five games (three starts).
Saturday’s game against the New York Mets will complete the Braves’ 22nd -- and final -- year of holding spring training at Disney. They’ll move next year into a new spring-training complex, CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla., which the Braves will open with an exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
The Braves then will head north for exhibitions against the Cincinnati Reds at SunTrust Park on Monday and Tuesday, followed by the regular-season opener Thursday in Philadelphia.
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