GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- If anyone at the Indians' player development complex blinked on Wednesday afternoon, they might have missed Josh Tomlin's first game action of the spring. Nine pitches were all he needed to breeze through three swift outs.
"Nine pitches?" Indians manager Manny Acta marveled. "That's him. He had command, location, everything and the rest of the world was just trying to get outs. That's him. He's in midseason form already."
The thing about Tomlin, though, is that he tends to be strong right out of the gates. When his pitch count begins to climb, and hitters start getting a second or third look at his stuff, that is when he can run into the most trouble. This spring, Tomlin is dedicating his time to attacking that problem.
Tomlin believes the solution involves his pitch sequencing overall, but specifically against hitters that he knows are better skilled at thumping his precision-based pitches. That might mean saving one pitch against a particular hitter until later in a game, or heading into a contest with a revised approach for certain spots.
For Tomlin, it is all about guesswork on the part of the batter.
"It's about pitch sequences for me," Tomlin said. "Pitch sequences and making a hitter guess and not letting them sit on one certain pitch throughout an at-bat."
Tomlin enjoyed a solid season in his first full tour with Cleveland in 2011, going 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 outings before a right elbow injury shelved him down the stretch. Throughout his 165 1/3 innings, the Indians discovered that hitters had success at an increasing rate the longer he stayed on the hill.
Consider that Tomlin posted a .205 opponents' batting average with a .591 on base plus slugging percentage the first time he faced a hitter. The second time through, hitters hit .256 with a .733 OPS against the righty. If Tomlin lasted three times through a lineup, hitters managed a .292 average with an .823 OPS.
Likewise, Tomlin's success rate diminished as his pitch count rose. From pitch Nos. 1-25 in his outings, he allowed a .157 average (.428 OPS). From pitch Nos. 26-50, those marks climbed to .254 (.756). Hitters started licking their chops in the 51-75 and 76-100 pitch ranges, hitting .285 (.790) and .306 (.911) in those respective scenarios.
Go figure: Indians hitters went 0-for-3 against Tomlin in his nine-pitch outing during Wednesday's intrasquad game.
"It's trying to maximize the most adjustments I can possibly make in the later innings," Tomlin said. "Right now, it's kind of early. I'm just working on staying around the strike zone right now, and maybe trying to figure out different pitches in early counts to try to get guys to chase and try to get guys to get quick outs."