SAN FRANCISCO — At some point during spring training, Giants manager Bruce Bochy responded to a question about Kelby Tomlinson by excitedly shouting: “Tommy Ball!” It was a nickname that stuck. Unfortunately for Tomlinson, he could not find a way to stick in the majors.
Tomlinson is the latest to be profiled in this series of recaps — if you missed it, here are Joe Panik and Ray Black from yesterday — but his season is best described in an odd way. The most memorable part of 2018 for Tomlinson was just how often he was called up and sent back down. Tomlinson was on the Opening Day roster, which stood as the first of six different stints in the big leagues. Here’s the rundown:
- Opening Day to June 1
- June 18-21
- July 4-5
- July 15-26
- July 30-August 4
- September 2 through the end
Hopefully they let him keep the miles.
What Went Right: There are not a lot of splits that stand out from a year during which Tomlinson batted just .207, but he did get off to a hot start, posting a .714 OPS in April. And he did do some damage against the rival Dodgers, picking up six hits in 19 at-bats and driving in three runs. Tomlinson’s .316 average against the Dodgers was second on the team to Gregor Blanco (.455).
Tomlinson played 35 games at second base, 13 at shortstop and three at third base. It’s a small sample size, but he appeared to be more comfortable on the left side of the infield than in past seasons.
What Went Wrong: Tomlinson’s short swing made him a valuable pinch-hitter in past seasons, but he was just 2-for-19 as a pinch-hitter in 2018 with one extra-base hit. His OPS against left-handed pitchers dipped to .523, keeping him from being a platoon option. It was a particularly rough ride down the stretch; Tomlinson was 1-for-16 in September.
The constant travel roster moves are interesting if you’re an observer, but it’s not something Tomlinson or any player would want. He could never quite replicate what kept him in the big leagues in the past. In addition to the issues against lefties and pinch-hitting, Tomlinson failed to steal a base for the first time in four big league seasons. After going 9-for-10 in 2017, Tomlinson was caught in both attempts in 2018.
Contract Status: Tomlinson had a salary of $560,000 when in the big leagues. He used his third and final option.
The Future: You never quite know what’s going on with a player off the field, and when discussing Tomlinson’s 2018 season, it must be noted that he came into camp trying to deal with a tremendous tragedy. In the span of three days over the offseason, Tomlinson lost his grandfather and his brother-in-law. He missed FanFest to be with his family, and he never seemed to catch up. Tomlinson never made any excuses, but it’s impossible to know just how much of an impact that situation had on his season. It’s also hard to know where the Giants go from here with Tomlinson, who has been a regular on the bench in recent years. He’s out of options and Alen Hanson and Abiatal Avelino are vying for those infield at-bats, so Tomlinson is in a tough spot. The Giants would surely like to keep him around as depth, but Tomlinson’s spot on the 40-man roster will be in danger this offseason.