Josh Tomlin ... impressive debut.
Josh Tomlin didn't look nervous, but said he was. His stuff looked hittable, but opposing batters proved it wasn't. With New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez getting all the attention, Tomlin stole the show. The Cleveland Indians' right-hander took a shutout into the eighth inning in his major-league debut, kept A-Rod from hitting his 600th homer, and beat former Indians ace CC Sabathia. 4-1.
"I just tried to throw strikes," said Tomlin, a 25-year-old who has steadily climbed past more publicized pitchers in Cleveland's farm system.
"It was an outstanding effort by the kid," manager Manny Acta said after Tomlin allowed one run and three hits over seven-plus innings. Tomlin struck out two without issuing a walk.
"He was very poised," Acta continued. "He pounded the strike zone. He's the poster boy for what we want -- pitchers throwing strikes."
Well, maybe not all that poised.
"I had to try and slow myself down," Tomlin said. "I was pretty excited when I thought about my first pitch was going to Derek Jeter. I almost hit him. I guess I was a little nervous."
Tomlin had a perfect game until Jeter singled to open the fourth. He didn't allow another baserunner until Nick Swisher doubled with one out in the seventh -- then left after Robinson Cano's leadoff double in the eighth. Cano later scored on a groundout, though relievers Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Chris Perez preserved the victory.
Chris Perez worked into -- and out of -- a ninth-inning jam to earn his 10th save. With runners on first and third, he struck out Swisher. Then he got Mark Teixeira on a popout -- ending the hot-hitting Yankee's streak of reaching base safely at 42 games.
Perez finished with a flourish, getting Rodriguez to bounce into a game-ending forceout at second.
Closing in place of veteran Kerry Wood, who is on the disabled list with a blistered right index finger, Perez didn't want to become part of home run history.
"I was thinking: 'Don't give it up. Don't let number 600 be a big one like that,' " Perez said.
A homer would have tied the score and deprived Tomlin of a much-deserved debut triumph.
With his mom and dad in the stands, Tomlin mystified Yankees hitters with a deft assortment of cut fastballs, crackling curves and changeups.
His style was reminiscent of former Indians ace Charlie Nagy in the 1990s. Talbot said Nagy, now the pitching coach at Triple-A Columbus, gave him a few words of advice about pitching for Cleveland.
"He told me not to change a thing and that my stuff would work up here," Tomlin said. "I believed him. I had to."
Tomlin has always been a winning pitcher. He won in high school, at Texas Tech, and at every level of the minors after being the Indians' 19th-round draft choice in 2006. He had a 51-24 record in the minors, including 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA this year at Columbus -- but still wasn't on Cleveland's 40-man roster until a few hours before gametime.
Columbus infielder Wes Hodges was designated for assignment to make room for Tomlin on the 40-man. Then outfielder Michael Brantley was optioned back to Columbus to make room on Cleveland's 25-man active roster. Tomlin took the rotation spot of lefty Aaron Laffey, who went on the disabled list Friday with a weak shoulder.
"He's in there for as long as he shows us he belongs," Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher said. "He showed tonight what he has been doing his whole career -- the ability to throw strikes and get people out."
Tomlin threw 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
Matt LaPorta drove in two runs, with a sacrifice fly and a double off Sabathia. In July 2008, LaPorta was considered to be the key player acquired by Cleveland among the four men acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Sabathia. The others were Brantley, right-handed reliever Rob Bryson and lefty Zach Jackson, who was released after the 2009 season. Bryson got hurt a couple weeks after the deal, but is pitching well in the Tribe's farm system this year.
Shin-Soo Choo had three hits for Cleveland, which handed Sabathia (13-4) his first setback in nearly two months. Sabathia had gone 9-0 over his 11 previous starts.