ARLINGTON, Texas -- The return was almost storybook for Brett Tomko. Pitching for the first time since Sept. 14, 2009, Tomko almost pitched two scoreless innings in relief in Sunday afternoon's 8-7 victory over Kansas City.
Tomko can live with the "almost," considering what he's gone through the last 19 months while fighting his way back from nerve damage in his right arm. Failing to get the final out -- three times -- and the three-run homer he surrendered won't spoil the big picture for the 38-year-old former starter who signed a minor league deal with the Rangers this offseason and was called up from Triple-A Round Rock last week.
"If I could take away that last batter, I feel pretty good about it," Tomko said. "It's been a long road to get back out there. It definitely was a good feeling walking off the field."
Tomko, cracking a smile, quickly corrected himself.
"I mean not walking off the field, walking on the field. Walking off the field, I wasn't too happy about it," he continued. "It's been a long journey back and it's not just about getting back here, it's about still pitching and having good stuff. I feel my stuff is still there.
"If I could look past that one pitch, it was a good day"
Tomko came in the eighth inning in relief of starter C.J. Wilson with the Rangers holding an 8-4 lead. After giving up a leadoff single to Alex Gordon, Tomko got a double play and struck out Jeff Francoeur looking to end the inning. (Francoeur was ejected after arguing the third strike.)
Tomko came out again for the ninth, which Rangers manager Ron Washington said wasn't debated in the dugout.
"No, because Tomko was doing well," Washington said.
Tomko wanted to get back out there. He's waited a long time, after all.
"With the situation -- our bullpen is a little beat up a little bit," he said. "The first inning went well. [Washington] asked me how I felt. I felt good, so I went back out."
The ninth started well enough with two strikeouts. With most of the crowd of 28,284 on their feet, Alcides Escobar singled. Repeat that scene for a single from Chris Getz. Tomko got two strikes on the next batter before Mike Aviles deposited a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats.
Washington then came out to take the ball from Tomko. Arthur Rhodes followed and nailed down the win with his first save of the season.
"It's rough to get the 27th out," Washington said, "but we got it."
Tomko almost did.