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Tomlin wins final job in Indians' rotation

Tomlin wins final job in Indians' rotation

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Tomlin wins final job in Indians' rotation
PHOENIX -- Josh Tomlin returned to his locker after a meeting with Indians manager Manny Acta, wearing a smile as he enjoyed the feeling of being told he was going to be a part of the Opening Day rotation.

The lone vacancy within the Tribe's starting five went to Tomlin, but the pitcher had yet to make any phone calls to tell his family and friends. With a handful of days left before the ballclub packs up and heads home to Cleveland, Tomlin did not want to get overly wrapped up in the news.

"It's not 100 percent until I'm on that plane to Cleveland and making that first start," Tomlin said. "My mindset still is I don't have that job until I'm on that mound. I won't believe it until that actually happens."

No matter Tomlin's mentality, the Indians have made their decision.

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On Friday morning, Cleveland optioned left-hander David Huff and right-hander Jeanmar Gomez to Triple-A Columbus, removing Tomlin's competition for the one available rotation spot. Not only did Tomlin make the team, the Tribe awarded him the fourth slot within the starting staff.

In announcing the decision to bring Tomlin north with the team, Acta also revealed the alignment of the rotation. Following Fausto Carmona, who will take the ball on Opening Day, the Indians will roll out a staff that includes Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Tomlin and Mitch Talbot, in that order.

Moving Tomlin higher in the order was an easy decision.

"He earned that right," Acta said.

In three Cactus League appearances this spring, the 26-year-old Tomlin fashioned a 1.13 ERA, allowing just one run in eight innings. He also pieced together a slew of shutout innings in Minor League outings. More important than the setting was Tomlin's consistency throwing strikes.

"He carried forward a lot of what he showed us last year," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti. "He's a great competitor. He's got a good mix of pitches and he really pounds the strike zone and attacks hitters. He works ahead in the count and he really continued to do that in Spring Training and won the job."

Last season, Tomlin split the year between Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland, making 12 starts for the Tribe down the stretch. In those outings, the righty went 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA. That followed an impressive showing at Triple-A, where Tomlin went 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA prior to being promoted to the big leagues on July 27.

"I kind of like being an underdog. No one expects too much out of you and you just try to go out there and prove yourself. You do what you've always done and just try to kind of shock some people," Tomlin said. "I don't know if it's helped me or not, but I've had that mentality my whole entire life. You have to compete and earn everything you get."

On Thursday night, Huff and Gomez had one final chance to change Cleveland's mind. The pair of pitchers did all they could, too. Against the reigning world champion Giants, Huff logged five shutout innings and Gomez followed by striking out six over four in a 7-1 victory for the Tribe.

Their performance made the decision a little harder, but the Indians saw enough from Tomlin to hand him the job.

"Josh just didn't relent," Antonetti said. "Josh pitched with the same effectiveness that he did last year and really came into camp and really never stumbled. He demonstrated all the attributes that have made him a successful pitcher."

Huff was inconsistent this spring, posting a 5.82 ERA over six outings after going 2-11 with a 6.21 ERA in 15 starts for the Indians last season. Gomez had a 5.50 ERA over six appearances in Cactus League play this spring after compiling a 4-5 record with a 4.68 ERA in 11 outings for the Tribe a year ago.

As things currently stand, Huff and Gomez will likely be the first starters considered if the Major League rotation encounters any issues.

"We know that we're going to need more than five starters to get through the season," Antonetti said. "So it's important for us to have that depth at Triple-A. We feel, with some of the guys that are down there now, that we sent out not only in this cut but in some cuts earlier in camp, we should have some pretty good alternatives."

Antonetti also believes Huff -- Cleveland's leader in wins with 11 as a rookie in 2009 -- can return to being a legitimate big league starter after some more seasoning in the Minors.

"We still feel David has a chance to be a very good Major League starting pitcher," Antonetti said. "He has some development left to do to make that final step in transitioning from a successful Minor League pitcher to a successful Major League pitcher. I'm confident that he'll continue that development."

In the meantime, Tomlin is trying not to get too caught up in the moment at hand. That said, being told that he will be on the Opening Day roster was something he had waited a long time to hear.

"I've dreamed about this my entire life," Tomlin said. "For it to actually come true is pretty amazing. I feel pretty blessed right now to have this opportunity."

He's just not ready to phone up all his friends and family members.

"Not yet," Tomlin said. "I don't want it to be a big thing right now."

When he does pick up the phone, Tomlin will surely call his dad.

The pitcher already knew the message he would receive.

"He'll tell me good job and that's about it," Tomlin said with a smile. "He'll tell me good job and don't take it for granted."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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