Brett Tomko? Why?

tomko_250_022509.jpgI’ve been meaning to comment on the signing of Brett Tomko, and since he’s starting Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays, now seems like a good time to do so. Tomko was signed to a Minor League deal back on February 13. The right-hander, who will turn 36 on April 7, is … there’s no good way to say this … terrible. His career ERA is 4.68 despite extensive work in friendly parks like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Since his last good ERA in 2004 — it was only the second time in his career he’d posted an ERA below league average — he’s gone 22-41 with a 5.07 ERA in 504.1 innings. Starting, relieving, selling peanuts, it hasn’t mattered, he’s been pounded. The only good thing he’s had going on in that time is a slightly above-average walk rate.

Pitchers are variable, and you never know when you might squeeze some unexpected juice out of one that seemed an irredeemable failure. The possibility seems quite remote in this case, and if Tomko wears a Yankees uniform anywhere but Scranton this year something will have gone quite wrong. The Yankees are trying to save their starters from the longer grind of an extended spring season this year, that’s understood, but starting Tomko and then following him with Kei Igawa in the same game seems like cruel and unusual punishment to Yankees fans.

? It’s quite a drag that Frankie Cervelli is heading out of camp to play in the WBC. Due to last spring’s injury, he hardly played last year, and to date has had only a few at-bats above High-A ball. As well as Jorge Posada seems to be doing with his throwing program, the Yankees really need to have a solid alternative to Jose Molina on hand in case the Iron Jorge breaks down (Kevin Cash ain’t it). The best thing that Cervelli can do for both the Yankees and his own career is to stay around, let the coaching staff see a lot of him, and do what he can to improve his batting stroke, because right now there is very little indication that he can hit in the big leagues. But there are hints in his performance and smatterings of patience and doubles power that hint (at least to me) that there is something alive in Cervelli that could blossom if only nurtured the right way. The WBC is probably not the way to do it.

? With all due respect to my friend Rob Neyer, now that the A’s are out of the Fremont business, they shouldn’t move to Portland, they should move to Central New Jersey. Sure, there are territorial issues with the Mets and Yankees, but it’s a big market and there’s room for all. Imagine the rivalry … imagine the traffic. I haven’t done a demographic comp with Portland, but I bet Jersey’s population density and general affluence wins. Also, thanks to the large Indian population in that part of the state, we’d have the only ballclub to serve samosas. I can hear the cry of the vendor now… “Nan! Hot nan! Getcher nan bread and samosas here!” I could go for some of that now, if only it weren’t 3 AM, and even if it is.

? The reminder: Baseball Prospectus writers Kevin Goldstein, Christina Kahrl, Cliff Corcoran, and I will be at the Yogi Berra Museum Sunday at 2 p.m. for our annual roundtable. Come, ask questions, get answers, and admire the sheer Yogi-ness of the edifice.

I’ll be back with an update after the Yankees break the ice on the spring season. Let’s hope Nick Swisher hits two home runs and Brett Gardner hits a triple and makes a running catch. The outcome of the season may depend on these two players having a better spring than their competitors. 

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