A story is still sitting in my computer from last season titled "Brett Tomko signed by ___".
At the time, Tomko was dealing all kinds of nasty on the mound for the York Revolution. I figured I'd better prepare something ahead of time just to be ready when Tomko did get picked up by a major league organization. After all, he was drawing attention from scouts and rumors were rampant that a deal from a big league club was imminent for Tomko, the right-hander who became the first pitcher to suit up for the Revs last season after gathering 100 career big-league wins from 1997 to 2011.
Fast forward to present day and Tomko is still in search of that elusive deal.
Tomko, who will turn 41 in April, returned Saturday to his Orange County, Calif., home, where he lives with his wife and their 3-year-old twin boys. He had just gotten back from spending a month in the Dominican Republic, where he started four games for Escogido in the Dominican Republic winter league with the hopes of impressing big league scouts.
"The good thing about the team I played with and stayed with, all the scouts stayed there. All the front-office people stayed there, so I got to talk and mingle with a lot of people," Tomko said. "I got a lot of good feedback from scouts. Some guys telling me they were gonna send in reports on me. Some scouts had a list of guys they were there to see and I was on the list. It's just a matter of the scouts' reports getting to the people who make the decisions. All I want is an opportunity to come to spring training and pitch. If I don't pitch well, we can part ways. If I pitch well enough and happen to make the team, then I make the team."
Of course, big league clubs might be wary of signing someone who has dealt with numerous biceps, elbow and shoulder injuries during his 14-year career. They would be gambling with the possibility of the aging veteran winding up on the disabled list a month into the season.
"Last year that was a big concern," Tomko said. "That's why I had trouble getting into (a big-league spring training) camp. That's why I went to York and went to the Dominican. I made 19 starts in York and four more starts in the Dominican. I'm geared up and ready to go."
Tomko posted a 4.98 ERA in 19 starts for the Revs last season, striking out 90 and walking 30 in 124 2/3 innings. His first two starts in the Dominican Republic were rough -- eight runs (five earned) allowed on 12 hits in just five innings. But his last two were solid -- four earned runs allowed on nine hits in 11 innings. Overall, he struck out nine and walked five.
"I had crazy bad luck the first two games. Of (12) hits given up, only three were hit hard, five were broken-bat singles and four were infield hits," he said. "It's weird, if you give up any runs early there, you're out of the game because they're trying to win every game at all costs. Even the last game, same thing. A broken-bat single to lead the game off, then a chopper up the middle and a hard hit ball to right field and they already had a guy going in the bullpen."
Tomko said he topped out at 94 mph and "sat around 89 to 92"³ mph -- the same numbers he says he posted when pitching in his 20s and 30s.
"My curve ball was a little bit better this summer, that's my feel pitch," he said. "I had a good grip on the cutter down there (in the Dominican Republic). It's the best it's ever been in the winter. I threw the cutter in York, but it was inconsistent. When I got down there I knew exactly what I was gonna do with it."
As for his immediate future, Tomko said his new agent, Larry O'Brien of Full Circle Sports, is working on finding him a deal. If nothing happens by mid-January, Tomko said he plans to set up a workout to pitch in front of big-league scouts near his hometown.
"My agent just texted me last night. If nothing happens in the next two weeks, we'll set something up and throw," Tomko said. "I did that last year when I threw out in Arizona. You got to put it all out there."
Tomko plans to continue to throw all the way through MLB's spring training just in case a roster spot opens up. That happened in 2009, when the New York Yankees signed him in February. Tomko went on to make 15 starts for the Yanks that year.
"If I don't get invited to camp, I would imagine that would probably be it," he said. "Unless I keep working out and then spring training someone calls me up and brings me in, I doubt I'll come back to the Atlantic League. Family-wise, kid-wise, it's tougher to do than going to a Triple-A city. My time in York was great. I'm glad I did it. But if I don't get into a camp and I don't get invited to anything after that, I'm done."
He's hoping he doesn't have to utter the R-word just yet.
"I'm optimistic somebody saw something that they liked (in the Dominican Republic)," he said. "To me, it's a no-lose situation. Bring me into spring training camp. If you like what you see, great. If you don't, then send me packing."
John Walk covers the York Revolution for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.