April 7 – Happy Birthday Brett Tomko
Brett Tomko started his Major league career in May of 1997, when beleaguered Cincinnati Reds’ Manager, Ray Knight needed to bolster his team’s starting rotation. The 24-year-old Tomko delivered, getting 19 starts that year and finishing with an 11-7 rookie year record and a 3.43 earned run average. The six-foot four-inch Cleveland-born right-hander followed up that strong first-year performance with a thirteen-win sophomore season and Reds fans head every reason to expect that Tomko would be a big part of their rotation for years to come. That didn’t happen and in fact, those same Reds fans were thrilled to see him go.
After he slumped to just 5-7 in 1999, Ken Griffey Jr. had made it known that he wanted to finish his baseball career in the same place his All Star father had begun his. In February of 2000, the Reds traded Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer to the Mariners to bring “Junior” Home.
So Tomko packed his bags for the move to Seattle. Little did he know that he was about to become the unofficial and unpaid Major League spokesman for Allied Van Lines. He pitched two years in Seattle and got traded to the Padres. After just a season in San Diego, he was dealt to the Cardinals. That turned out to be the last time Tomko was ever traded but it was far from his last big league relocation. Beginning in 2003 when the Cards let him go, Brett Tomko has been released more than the trigger of Buffalo Bill’s Winchester.
The Giants let him walk in 2005. Ditto for the Dodgers in 2007. Then it was back to San Diego for a few weeks and then Kansas City. The Royals said good bye in 2008 but then the good-old-Padres invited him back for a three-month visit. In February of 2009, Brian Cashman signed Tomko and he started the season pitching for the Yankees Triple A team in Scranton. And what a start it was. In fourteen innings of pitching, he saved four games won another, struck out 17 hitters and had an ERA of 0.64. He got called up to the Bronx that May and Joe Girardi used him in 15 games. After a shaky first appearance against the Orioles, Tomko was sharp in five of his next six times out and it looked like he was settling into an important role in that Yankee bullpen. But then in a June inter-league game against the cross-town Mets, he relieved an ineffective Joba Chamberlain in the fourth inning and also got shelled in a 9-8 Yankee defeat. After getting his Yankee ERA down to 2.16, he experienced several bad outings and saw it explode to over six. Joe Girardi stopped calling his number. The Yankees released him on July 29, 2009 and he immediately signed on with Oakland. He then spent the entire 2010 season in the minors after which the A’s released him. He signed with Texas in 2011 and this past February he came back to where it all began fifteen years ago in Cincinnati.
If you add it all up, Tomko has pitched for ten different big league teams and fourteen different minor league ball clubs. He has a big league record of 100 wins and 104 losses with 2 career saves and 2 shutouts. He lost number 100 while he was wearing the Yankee pinstripes. You look at all the places he’s been and all the time’s he’s had to relocate and you can’t help feeling sorry for a baseball nomad like Brett Tomko, right? Well don’t waste any tears. He’s made at least $22 million in salary during his big league career and probably half that amount in reimbursed moving expenses.