Tomko wants to be part of rotation

Tomko wants to be part of Royals' rotation

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Brett Tomko didn't sound too worried about not making the greatest first impression on Tuesday.

And it's a good thing he wasn't worried.

Staked to a 2-0 in the top of the first inning, Tomko needed just a handful of pitches to erase the lead. Scott Podsednik's leadoff single and Troy Tulowitski's home run tied the ballgame before Tomko could record an out.

"You come out, first game, and just trying to get your feet wet, and all of a sudden, four pitches into it, you're down a couple runs," he said.

Not the best way to put a hammerlock on one of the starting spots in the Royals' rotation.

"That stuff happens; it's spring," Tomko said of the first inning. "But after that, it was like, 'All right, let's do over.' I started getting after it."

From there, Tomko found his bearings. He breezed through the next two innings, but in the fourth, he served up Jeff Baker's leadoff homer.

"A guy hits a cutter 415 feet the other way, you just tip your cap," Tomko said. "But, in between that, I felt good."

For his day's work, Tomko's statistical line read: four innings, four hits, three runs, two strikeouts and a walk.

He admitted he had the typical butterflies. He always does, he said. He hadn't pitched in a live game for months, after all. Batting practice and bullpens aren't the same. Tomko needs work like this, even when it has its early problems.

"You just wanna remember how to pitch," said Tomko, whom the Royals signed as a free agent in the offseason. "I think the control and your secondary pitches come later."

As he dissected his outing, Tomko didn't show a hint of worry over it. No reason for that, not in a debut. He said he was laying the foundation for outings to come, as all pitchers must do in Spring Training.

His performance wasn't half bad, either.

"Obviously, I'd like to see Brett not give up the home runs," manager Trey Hillman said after his team's 11-5 win over the Rockies. "But I was pleased to see him get back into his delivery and do some real good things."

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Tomko agreed.

"I felt like everything was working," he said. "For the first time out, I felt pretty sharp."

That's good news for Hillman and the Royals, because they are counting on the 34-year-old Tomko to bring his veteran's savvy to a starting rotation that's built around young arms.

Tomko said he weighed that role in deciding to sign with the Royals, one of the youngest teams in baseball. He had options offered to him elsewhere, but those teams wanted him for their bullpen, a role he took on with the Padres at the end of the '07 season.

"I had a lot of bullpen offers," he said. "I wanted to show that I could start."

He talked to Hillman and general manager Dayton Moore, and they assured him that he had an opportunity to start for them. He liked hearing that.

So here Brett Tomko is in Royals camp -- the only 30-something on a rotation filled with 20-somethings.

"You can say it," said Tomko, laughing. "I've been around the block."

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.