OAKLAND -- Alex White mixed his slider in here and there throughout last season as an Indians farmhand. Just because he used the pitch does not mean the pitching prospect had much control over it.
"I used it," White said. "It wasn't very good, but I used it."
The development of the slider played a role in White's rapid progress and eventual promotion to Cleveland's rotation last week. The Indians wanted the right-hander to concentrate on upgrading that offering, giving him another weapon to use once he reached the big leagues.
That is precisely what the pitch has become.
"It came along at the end of the year," said White, referring to his first professional season in 2010. "It was a decent pitch, but it was nothing like it is now. It's a completely different pitch. It's actually something I can use in big situations.
"I can throw it early in counts for strikes. I can throw it when I'm behind in the count. I can throw it when I'm ahead in the count as a chase pitch. It's really become a weapon for me."
During his Major League debut on Saturday, the 22-year-old White relied heavily on his two-seam sinking fastball and his slider in a six-inning outing against the Tigers. He estimated that he used his splitter -- one of his best pitches -- only four or five times against Detroit.
When the Indians selected White in the first round (15th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, he did not throw a slider. Last year, while using it sparingly, he took home the club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award by going 10-10 with a 2.45 ERA between stints at Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron.
Now, with an improved and reliable slider at his disposal, White understands why Cleveland wanted him to work so hard on the pitch.
"Absolutely," White said. "Early on, I was able to get guys out with fastballs. Even in Triple-A, just fastballs, you're not going to get guys out. It's really taught me how to pitch, and pitch in the strike zone with three or four different pitches."
Homers don't worry Tribe's Tomlin
OAKLAND -- Josh Tomlin allows himself to smile when asked about the high volume of home runs he has already surrendered this season for the Indians. Long balls come with the territory for a pitcher who makes his living in the strike zone.
"That's just the style of how I pitch," Tomlin said with a shrug on Thursday morning. "I go right after guys. I'm not shying away from contact, by no means. Home runs are going to happen every now and then."
But in Oakland Coliseum? Against David DeJesus? Twice?
"I was telling everybody," Tomlin said with a laugh, "if someone's going to give them up in Oakland, it'd be me. I guarantee it. I don't give up wall-scrapers."
Tomlin is able to laugh the home runs off because he has pieced together a strong season to this point for Cleveland. Sure, DeJesus' two unlikely homers in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the A's were damaging. But more often than not, Tomlin can live with giving up solo shots.
Overall, Tomlin has surrendered seven home runs this season in 40 2/3 innings. Entering Thursday, only 13 pitchers in the Majors had given up at least that many. Among those hurlers, however, Tomlin ranked first in opponents' batting average (.174), total bases allowed (51) and ERA (2.43).
"He's going to be susceptible to home runs," said Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher. "If he stays in the rotation all year, he'll lead this club, easily, in home runs. But I'd venture to guess 70 percent of them will be solos."
Through six starts, Tomlin has yielded six solo homers and one two-run blast. He has also run to a 4-1 record for the American League Central-leading Indians. It is rare that allowing only two solo shots -- like Tomlin did on Wednesday in Oakland -- will result in a loss.
"For solo home runs to beat you, they have to hit a lot of them," Tomlin said. "I've said that. Belcher has said that. Unfortunately, it worked out for them last night where it did beat us. That's just how I pitch."
Center fielder Grady Sizemore received a scheduled day off on Thursday in Oakland. Indians manager Manny Acta said he wanted to use Sizemore on four out of five days, giving him a day to rest his surgically-repaired left knee. If everything goes according to plan, Sizemore will play each of the three upcoming games in Anaheim. ... First baseman Matt LaPorta and catcher Carlos Santana also had the day off on Thursday. ... Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin held hitters to an 0-for-16 showing in the first inning of his starts prior to David DeJesus' solo home run in the first on Wednesday night. ... The Indians' 20-9 start is tied for the second-best run through 29 games in team history. Cleveland also opened with a 20-9 record in 1999, 1996, 1995, 1966, 1955, 1948, 1941 and 1916. ... Entering Thursday, the Indians had been in first place in the American League Central for 28 consecutive days. ... Entering Thursday, the Indians (+48) had the largest run differential in the Majors. The Cardinals (+37) ranked second.