Josh Tomlin, in the process of getting his first career save against Marlins Sunday. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images
Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images

Ten years in, Braves’ Tomlin gets first save - and he’ll be OK if it’s his last 

Over a decade in the majors, 34-year-old Josh Tomlin has started in 144 games, notched 62 wins, pitched 930 innings and made two appearances in the World Series. But, no, he can’t say he has done it all.

Although he did get a little closer to being able to say that Sunday.

This most veteran player picked up the first save of a long career as the Braves ran through their bullpen and turned to him to get the last three outs in the 12th and final inning of a 7-6 victory over the Miami Marlins.

A starter for most of his career, later working in long and spot relief, Tomlin said that there really was a different feeling when called on to close. A good different, since it all worked out.

“A little bit different, yeah,” he said. “I don’t know if it was extra innings or what. You see guys go out there and battle and try to get back in the game and they do (scoring four in the ninth), fighting back again to take the lead (in the 12th). You really don’t want to screw that up, after they work their tails off to get us the lead again.

“We’re all human, obviously. There is that little bit of added pressure.”

In this new position, Tomlin gave up a one-out single before striking out the last two Marlins he faced.

And, yes, he kept the ball. It will be preserved along with his first strikeout, his first victory and several mementos from the 2016 World Series, with Cleveland, where he had spent his previous nine seasons.

“Everything in this game means something to me,” he said.

Released late in spring training by Milwaukee, Tomlin was immediately scooped up by the Braves to add some veteran versatility to the bullpen. He has appeared in 22 games for the Braves thus far, throwing 33 innings, with an ERA of 3.82.

“He’s like the multi-faceted utility player,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Tomlin. “He’s the Swiss Army knife in the bullpen. You can use him in a lot of different roles.”

Regardless of being a starter for the majority of his career, Tomlin has had little trouble adjusting to life in the bullpen.

He tended to look at the whole “starter” label pretty humbly, anyway. “From early on in my career I understood, OK, I was a starting pitcher, but maybe it was because we didn’t have enough arms at the time,” he said.

Tomlin found that he almost preferred life in the bullpen, and found that he that he was as adaptable as a plumber’s pipe wrench. 

“I knew, if I had to pitch back-to-back days throughout the year I’d try to do to help our team win. That’s the way I’ve always been,” he said. “I’ve pitched on two days’ rest, three days’ rest, six days, 10 days. Whatever the case may be to help us win, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

And he has found he really enjoys doing that for the Braves.

Sometimes, it’s good to get a newcomer’s perspective on a team. And when Tomlin talks about the Braves, it’s almost reverently.

“They have this aura about them, you’re drawn to them,” he said. “You want to understand what they’re doing here.

“And once you get here the message is pretty clear: Win every game we can and try to get to the World Series. Being one game away from that in ’16 leaves a taste in your mouth (up 3-1 in that Series, Cleveland lost in seven games to the Chicago Cubs). To come here and have the opportunity to taste that again, I don’t take any of that for granted.”

Toward that end, he’s not going to lobby for the closer’s job, even if he is perfect in that role.

“I’m not lobbying for anything. Just lobbying to help our team win, whatever that role is,” Tomlin said.

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