Pitcher Brett Tomko took some time on Tuesday afternoon before his start against the Rockies to participate in an online chat. The right-hander shared his opinion about a variety of subjects, including the Dodgers chemistry, his switch from the bullpen to the rotation, practical jokes and his painting career.
Brett Tomko: Hey guys. Thanks for taking the time to do this today. Let's get started.
dodgerfanrob22: What has been your favorite memory during your baseball career, so far?
Tomko: I would have to say my first Major League start. I think for anybody, they would have to say that's one of their biggest memories. The funniest thing about it was, I got Gregg Jefferies to ground out to first base and I was covering the base. When I was heading back to the mound, I tripped, which was pretty funny, but it was just the whole night. It seemed almost like a dream.
hen: How does team chemistry look from inside the dugout?
Tomko: I think it's great. I think it's better than last year and we had a good bunch of guys last year, but I think Ned [Colletti] did a great job of bringing in good character people. Juan Pierre, Luis Gonzalez -- those guys are just good guys and you get a bunch of guys together that enjoy hanging out, it's going to show on the field.
dodgrfan805: You are an amazing artist and I appreciate your artwork. Please tell us what it meant for you to be honored to create the Jackie Robinson Poster.
Tomko: I thought it was really cool because my rookie season was the 50th anniversary, so I always thought it was cool that on my very first jersey, I had the patch on my jersey. To still be playing 10 years later and actually be on the Dodgers and create something for that day, it means a lot to me. He did a lot for the game and a lot for the African-American culture in terms of crossing that color line. In sports, he probably made the single biggest impact to change the game.
dodgrfan805: What's the longest you have gone without shaving?
Tomko: I actually don't shave with a straight razor. I shave with a beard trimmer, so I haven't shaved in a year and a half -- so it's not actually real shaving. I go for the rugged, stubble look.
magic1331: Being in the same division as Barry Bonds, you'll face him a lot. Would you consider walking him to slow down his home run pace, or does that matter in how you approach him?
Tomko: I think the most important thing is what impact it's going to have on the game that you're pitching. I could care less if he breaks the record or not. I care more about if we win that game. If it's a situation where he may beat us or has a chance to beat us, I have no problem pitching around him or walking him. He's going to hit his home runs regardless, so I'm not going to try and slow him down so he doesn't break it against us.
specialist88: How do you rate Russell Martin behind the plate?
Tomko: I can't give him enough credit. I've had about 26 catchers over my career and in one year, I would put Russ right up near the top. I've had Mike Matheny, who is probably the best I've ever had and I think Russ has the same passion and the same work ethic that he has. In time, people are going to say his name with the guys that are at the top of the game.
Nallz: The Rockies are surprisingly very scrappy. What is your pitching strategy for this evening?
Tomko: I've pitched against them a lot in my career and I think you take the same strategy as any team. You set up a game plan on how you want to go about each hitter and very simply, you make one pitch at a time. You try not to get too far ahead of yourself and you try to make quality pitches. I don't want to tell you too much in case they're reading this, but I'll tell you after the game if it worked.
TKOtomko: My friend and I gave you the nickname 'TKO Tomko' when you moved to the bullpen and you'd sit them down 1-2-3. Do you have any other nicknames and maybe you can suggest TKO Tomko to Vin.
Tomko: I don't really have any nicknames. A lot of people just call me BT for my initials. All my high school buddies called me KO (without the Tom part of my last name). I get a lot of Tommy, Tom -- as long as it relates to me. Olmedo Saenz calls me "Mike" and I'm not sure what that means. He started laughing, so I guess I'll go along with it.
6691: Are you feeling 100 percent? Do you like the starting position much better than bullpen?
Tomko: Yeah, I feel 100 percent. To be honest, I like them both for different reasons, but my heart is in being a starter. I did it for almost nine years of my career, so it's fun to get back in the rotation and pick up where I left off last year and then try to contribute in that way. I did like the one inning aspect of going in there and basically letting loose for 10-15 pitches, but starting is where the heart is.
the23game: You played junior college at Mt. Sac, how was the road to the Majors?
Tomko: It was long. It was very unconventional for me. I transferred four different times. I was junior college to a Division I to junior college and back to a Division II. I had to go where I was given an opportunity because I wasn't recruited out of high school. It was a struggle, but I kept plugging away and went where my best opportunity was going to be.
dodgrfan805: Hey Brett, weren't you drafted by the Dodgers in 1994?
Tomko: It was the 19th round after my sophomore year of junior college. I had told them that I wasn't going to sign and that I was going to go to Florida Southern, but they drafted me anyway. I was supposed to be a third-to-fifth-rounder but I wound up slipping. I thought it would be more beneficial to go back to school and it worked out, because I got drafted in the second round by the Reds.
blbleeder: Hi, Brett Tomko -- I hope you had a good Opening Day. I was wondering when you got interested in painting?
Tomko: I've always drawn since I was about 5 years old, but I started painting more in college. I took a couple painting classes my last year of college, so that's when I first started. But, I just got back into it this winter so it's kind of a new thing for me again. It's got my interest right now because it's so fresh and new for me.
wewillwinthewest: I was at my first Opening Day yesterday and I loved it. As a player, do you feel the same buzz as the fans do?
Tomko: Definitely. Anytime you can be a part of any Opening Day, it's special, even if it's on the road. But when you're at home and hearing all the fans cheering for you, you definitely feel the electricity more than any other day during the season, unless it's close to winning the division. It's a lot of fun to see everybody come out like yesterday.
CoryHughes: Will you be showcasing and/or selling any of your artwork?
Tomko: I might try to get enough pieces done to do a show at the end of the year, but I have sold stuff in the past. Be on the lookout for more information. I'm sure the Dodgers will put something out if we finalize plans to do a show.
dodgerdiaz: What's your favorite type of music?
Tomko: I'm pretty much a Top 40 guy, but I tend to lean toward the more mellow stuff like Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and John Mayer. I still like some old school rap, but I'd rather have some mellow music these days.
gabog: What is your favorite park to pitch in? Why?
Tomko: You know, it's always been L.A. It's always been my favorite place to throw. Growing up right outside of L.A. and coming to games as a kid, I just remember always wanting to be on the field, so when I'm actually pitching out there now, the only way I can relate it is that it feels like playing Wiffle ball in the backyard with all your buddies.
jack16: Who's the biggest practical joker on the team? Any good pranks pulled recently?
Tomko: Let's see. There hasn't been any major ones pulled, but Jason Schmidt has a reputation and I've seen it in San Francisco, so everyone should be on the lookout for him. The latest thing was that he had a remote control fart machine and he put it in Brad Penny's locker while he was doing an interview in San Francisco.
dodgerfiend: Are you throwing any different pitches this year?
Tomko: No. I think being a starter again, you use a little bit more than when you're in the bullpen. I was usually just fastball/slider in the 'pen and you didn't really have time to use all four pitches. I think being a starter now, I'll bring back out my curveball and my changeup a little bit more so I have more weapons.
the23game: During the offseason you did some tweaks to your wind-up and delivery. As we have seen for Barry Zito, this can become a negative, but this spring you've shown this can be a positive. What made you make these changes?
Tomko: Actually, I was having dinner with Dave Roberts and we got to talking about pitching and hitting and I asked him if I happened to sometimes tip my pitches or anything from a hitter's perspective. He said the only thing he ever heard was that sometimes, guys see the ball too long and I had heard that a couple of other times, so I just tried to tweak it a little bit so I would hide the ball longer and it's more of a surprise when you let go of the ball. It wasn't any drastic change. It was minor stuff and it wasn't that hard of a change.
dodgrfan805: If you could drive any of your teammates car for a day, who's would it be?
Tomko: Well, there's a couple guys. Luis Gonzalez and Raffy [Furcal] and Eddie Murray all have the same car. It's a nice S550 Mercedes. I'd probably steal one of those for the day.
blbleeder: Do you put any extra pressure on yourself knowing there's two or three other guys that want your job?
Tomko: No, I don't. Randy Wolf made a comment during spring that made a lot of sense to me about pressure. He said that pressure was when somebody doubts his own ability and it made sense to me. If I have confidence in myself to go out there and succeed, there's no pressure. I just try to take that approach. You can't sit there and worry about it and get all worked up about the game. That's kind of the approach I took all Spring Training. Believe in yourself, have fun out there and whatever's going to happen is going to happen.
TOMKO_FAN1: Is Grady Little the ideal manager for the Dodgers?
Tomko: I think Grady is perfect for the Dodgers. I've had a lot of managers in my career and I've always said Bruce Bochy was probably the guy I liked playing for the most, but Grady has put himself up with him. He's just easy to get along with. He wants his players to do well. He's a great communicator. He's a lot of fun to have around. He's a great guy to have pulling the strings and making all the moves.
GOTETHIER: Does the team hang out together before or after a game or when there's no game, or do you all do separate things?
Tomko: I think it varies when we're in L.A. or on the road. I think at home, guys tend to stick with their families and be with their kids and their wives. On the road, there's a little more time for guys to hang out and go to lunch or dinner or hang out after the game. I just think it varies depending on where we are.
bsaldr1064: How do you mentally prepare for a game, especially now that you are in the relief role? How was this different from your "starter" routine?
Tomko: I try to take the same approach every day. I keep my normal routine. I don't do anything different on the day I start. I used to have a bunch of superstitions and do little dumb things on the day I start and it got to be a little too overwhelming, so I try to keep it real simple and have fun. Hang out normal and once I get ready to get stretched out and start throwing in the bullpen, I try to get more focused and locked in.
TOMKO_FAN1: What are your favorite places to eat in Los Angeles?
Tomko: Wow. We stay out in Pasadena, so all the restaurants on Colorado, we just kind of rotate them. We don't have one specific place we always go. We're very random in our food selection.
geoDgreat1: Are you an NBA fan? If so, what's your favorite team and all-time player, and does it inspire you to be the best you can be?
Tomko: I'm definitely an NBA fan. I grew up being a Laker fan from the time I was a little kid and I still follow the Lakers. My all-time favorite player -- this is going to contradict what I just said -- but I was a huge Larry Bird fan growing up. And, my dad actually won a contest before I was born and he got to name the Cleveland Cavaliers when they were an expansion team. He also drew the original logo.
Tomko: Two more...
jabd101: How far, realistically, do you think this year's team can go? World Series? All the way?
Tomko: I think we have a better team than last year, on paper. It's a long season and you hope everyone stays healthy, but if everyone does, I would imagine us making the playoffs and having a shot. The main thing is you want to get to the playoffs and see what happens from there, but I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to do that and then have a shot to go to the World Series and win it.
Jose1805: Can you hit a home run to right field today?
Tomko: Well, considering I've never hit a home run in a game, I would say the chances are very slim. Let's just hope I get a hit.
ladodblue: How long to you plan to play baseball and what are your plans after baseball? Thanks for the time.
Tomko: I'll play as long as somebody wants to keep giving me a job. As long as my body holds up and I feel good and my family is happy with it, I'll play as long as I can. Afterwards, there are a few things I'd consider doing. I wouldn't mind going into broadcasting. I wouldn't mind coaching at some level, but I'm not sure if it's high school, college or pro. And, I plan to do something with my artwork, but I'm not sure what that is yet.
Tomko: Thank you all for being a part of this. I hope to see you out at the stadium tonight and on Jackie Robinson Day.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.