BOSTON -- When they first met, Clay Buchholz and Josh Tomlin were teammates at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. In fact, Buchholz went to Angelina with hopes that he’d take Tomlin’s job -- at shortstop.
“Yeah, we didn't know each other at the time, so there was no -- I didn't find out about the story that our junior college coach told the year after I left, that he came in and he would play right field or just pitch,” Tomlin said, explaining the situation from their college days at the Indians' workout Saturday at Fenway Park.
The college teammates will oppose each other as major league pitchers when Buchholz's Red Sox host Tomlin's Indians in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday. Cleveland leads the best-of-five series, 2-0.
“So, I didn't find out about that until later. But, yeah it was a friendly competition it was just about what made our team better.”
Now, 11 years since they competed for an infield spot in fall ball together, they are competing against one another again, for the first time on the mound -- all with a trip to the ALCS on the line.
“It’s really crazy how some things work out,” Buchholz said.
Boston’s starter complimented Tomlin for his athleticism and play at shortstop when they were in college, but also made mention that Tomlin wasn’t a fixture in the Roadrunners’ rotation. Still, he’s not surprised to se how far Tomlin’s come in his career.
“He’s a competitor,” Buchholz said. “Obviously if you look at the charts he’s not going to overpower you. He’s a very good command, control pitcher. He can cut, sink the ball, has a good curveball. He’s had that ever since I first met him.”
Tomlin credited Buchholz for “probably [being] a better pitcher than I was at the time,” but when it came to hitting, Cleveland’s Game 3 starter changed his tune.
“It's been a long time ago. I don't really know. I want to say me,” Tomlin answered when reporters asked who was the better hitter, getting a hearty laugh from manager Terry Francona. “I think he hit more home runs, but, no, he was an All-American that year we were there, so he was probably a better all-around player, but I think he got All-American for pitching, not hitting.”
Although this is the first matchup for the Angelina College alumni, it’s not the first time their paths have crossed since they played together, and they don’t expect it will be their last.
“Yeah, we have maintained a friendship,” Tomlin said. “We talk to each other every off-season, we have been back to Angelina and talked to coach and worked out and threw with him.
“But other than that, it's just kind of a friendly text back and forth and when we see each other and play each other we hang out, go eat lunch or something like that. But, yeah, we're still pretty good friends.”
Come first pitch Sunday though, their friendship -- much like Francona and John Farrell’s -- will go on a temporary hiatus.
“Yeah, I'll text him tonight, not tomorrow, but the next day after that, yeah,” Tomlin said with a big smile.