Tomko returns to Padres for third time
Right-hander, 35, will step into much-needed long-relief role
SAN DIEGO -- After he fired his agent in the spring, Brett Tomko had to fend for himself when looking for a prospective team to pitch for after being designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals this month.
But what might appear to be a daunting task was something the right-handed pitcher and resident of nearby Poway actually embraced, as Tomko positioned himself in front of the phones and made a handful of calls to Major League teams.
"I was doing everything myself ... manning the phones, getting things brewing," Tomko said. "I had a lot of things cooking -- I got a real good response from talking to people."
One of the calls went to Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who apparently showed enough interest to sign the 35-year-old to a Major League contract Friday just more than two weeks after he was cast adrift by the Royals.
The call to Towers was anything but a blind feeler for Tomko, who has served two prior stints with the Padres, the most recent being last season when he pitched in seven games for the Padres in September.
"It came down to here and the Yankees," said Tomko, who made 32 starts for the Padres in 2002, going 10-10 with a 4.49 ERA. "There's something to being home and knowing everyone here. It made the decision a little easier."
Tomko had been working out and throwing bullpen sessions near his offseason home in Poway after being designated for assignment by the Royals on June 12 after going 2-7 with a 6.97 ERA in 16 games, including 10 starts.
The Padres had some interest in retaining Tomko after the end of the 2007 season but only as a reliever. Instead, Tomko jumped at the opportunity to be a starter for Kansas City as well as the $3 million contract the Royals offered.
San Diego manager Bud Black said Friday that the reports on Tomko's stuff were good despite his lack of success. He'll slide into long relief for Padres, a role they haven't had anyone to fill during the first half.
"We're trying to find that right blend in our bullpen. I think one thing we've lacked is really a true long man, a guy who can throw in upwards to 50, 60 pitches, throw three innings," Black said.
To make room for Tomko, the Padres optioned left-handed reliever Justin Hampson to Triple-A Portland. Also, catcher Colt Morton was outrighted to Double-A San Antonio where he already was playing.
That particular move was made to create room for Tomko on the Padres' 40-man roster.
Tomko, who hasn't appeared in a game since June 11, said his results with Kansas City weren't an accurate representation of how well he felt his mechanics were, the result of working with Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds last season.
That was yet another reason why it was easy to choose the Padres and not the Yankees.
"That definitely played into it. It's a different situation than last year," Tomko said. " ... Mechanically, I was messed up. This year has been different. I threw the ball pretty well. I was making a lot of mistakes in the zone. I was giving up runs, but when I left the game I didn't feel like I didn't have anything."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.