Friday, March 16, 2007

Brett Tomko Trumps Chad Billingsley as Starter

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti remembered that Brett Tomko went 11-7 with a 4.04 ERA when the two were with the Giants in 2005 -- promising if not spectacular -- and was only too happy to shell out what is now regarded as a paltry $2 million a year to bring Tomko to Los Angeles.

Colletti looked like genius when Tomko began the season at 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA. But an oblique injury sidelined him for a month beginning June 27, and when he came back he wasn't the same, finishing the year in the bullpen at 8-7 with a 4.73 ERA.

Now the 34-year-old veteran is healthy again in his contract year, and is determined once and for all to reclaim his rotation spot with a little help from his former Giants sponsor.

It's a bit of a surprise, but so far so good, with fellow Ohio native and potential ace Chad Billingsley, 22, already demoted to the bullpen and the primary remaining contenders reduced to Hong Chih-Kuo, 26, and Mark Hendrickson, 33.

Tomko has been the most effective of the three survivors in the race for the No. 5 spot, introducing a new, modified throwing motion that helps keep his often flat, 95-mph fastball from rising in the zone, a flaw that caused him to give up 57 homers over the past three years despite playing in pitchers' parks.