"Aug. 22 is the day I had surgery, and Aug. 22 is the day I want to pitch again," Tomlin said. "That was just a personal goal for me, because I know the process takes a full year. So, I set my sights the day I had surgery. I wanted to be back on the same date, pitching and helping the team as much as I can.
"The realistic goal is actually here now. It's exciting to be here and exciting to get to go on these rehab games and know [being activated] is a definite possibility in the near future."
The Indians have not established a potential return date for Tomlin, who is scheduled to work one relief inning for low Class A Lake County on Thursday. Both Tribe manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti have, however, indicated that Tomlin could pitch in the big leagues before the end of this season.
"If he doesn't have any setbacks," Antonetti said, "it's a pretty strong likely that he can contribute in either the end of August or early September."
Antonetti said the team has not yet determined whether Tomlin would return as a starter or reliever.
"We have to be cognizant of where Josh is coming from," Antonetti said. "We wouldn't just drop him in the rotation and expect that he's going to be able to go out and throw eight innings, 120 pitches every time."
Tomlin's best season came in 2011, when he went 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 starts for Cleveland. Last season, the 28-year-old right-hander went 5-8 with a 6.36 ERA in 21 games before being sidelined by the elbow injury.
Tomlin is eager to get back on the mound for the Tribe.
"Everybody says it's fun to watch," said Tomlin, referring to keeping tabs on the team while he was rehabbing in Arizona. "It's not. It's not fun to watch. It's really not. It's fun to see them win, and to see how well they're playing, but watching on TV is a different ballgame. You want to be out there. You want to be here, experiencing it with them."
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.