Garland, 32, went 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA in nine starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers before having rotator cuff surgery in July. He is expected to be ready to compete with David Huff, Zach McAllister, Kevin Slowey, Scott Barnes, and Jeanmar Gomez for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation.
In the wake of a deal that doesn’t fill an obvious need (the team already has five solid candidates for the final rotation spot), it’s worth asking: Is the Garland signing an indication that the Indians are concerned about the health of Josh Tomlin‘s right elbow?
Tomlin had the tale of two seasons in 2011. In his first 10 starts he posted a record of 6-2 with a sparkling ERA of 2.74. Then the wheels fell off. Over his remaining 16 starts he posted a record of 6-5 with an ERA of 5.24 before being shut down due to inflammation of the elbow.
Tomlin went through the rehab process and even threw a simulated game on September 14, but less than a week later with the out-of-contention Indians announced that Tomlin was being shut down for the remainder of the season.
Since the end of the 2011 season the Indians have acquired Slowey, Derek Lowe, and now Garland while keeping the Triple-A Columbus Clippers’ projected rotation intact. Maybe the Indians want to have additional competition in camp. Maybe they want starting pitching depth in the event of the myriad of injuries that can sideline a pitcher at any point during the year. But it could be that Tomlin’s recovery has hit a snag and he will need some sort of corrective action that will delay his 2012 debut—or worse, cause him to miss the 2012 season entirely.
To be clear, there’s no reason to assume that anything is wrong—we haven’t heard any bad news about Tomlin’s recovery lately—but it’s a possibility and it would help explain why the Indians have been so eager to add pitching depth this winter.
At any rate, we are only a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting and we’ll be able to get a better read on pitchers health then.