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Nomo has strong 'pen debut

Nomo has strong 'pen debut

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Hideo Nomo had his first outing as a Royals bullpen candidate on Thursday night and it went perfectly.

Nomo pitched two innings and retired all six batters, three on strikeouts, in an 11-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

"Three strikeouts in two innings -- that's pretty good," manager Trey Hillman said. "He's still missing bats."

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Nomo, attempting a comeback after not being in the Majors since 2005, was dropped from rotation consideration after giving up five runs in three innings to the Brewers last Saturday.

"He was very effective," Hillman said. "He continues to locate his fastball. He got it up to 88 [mph] today. He's elevating when he needs to elevate it to change eye levels, and it's very effective, because of what the split does. Sometimes, they're looking for the split and he doesn't throw it."

Nomo was famous for his split-finger pitch in his glory years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and other clubs.

"He did a good job. It's still intriguing to us and he's still very much in the mix for a bullpen position," Hillman said.

The only bullpen locks seem to be Joakim Soria, Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta and Jimmy Gobble. Nomo is competing against a horde of others, including Joel Peralta, Brandon Duckworth, Neal Musser, Leo Nunez and whoever is left after the battle for the last two starting jobs.

One of those starting candidates, Brett Tomko, pitched four innings against the Brewers and gave up three runs (two earned).

Tomko was encouraged by the effectiveness of a new-grip curveball that he's just added to his arsenal of pitches. It's an offspeed pitch that gives him a different look.

"My big thing is I throw everything hard -- like my slider, my cutter, my change-up are all hard. Getting something that has about a 20 mile-an-hour difference, guys aren't getting so zoned in," Tomko said.

"It's a learning process for that pitch, but I feel like, for the second time out, I'm throwing it for strikes early in the count and getting swings and misses with it so I'm feeling pretty good about it."

Tomko got the victory and stands 2-1 with an 8.59 ERA. Nomo lowered his ERA to 4.85 and has 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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