Kelby Tomlinson has the eyes for the game, his glasses are just a bonus.
Wearing his signature black-rimmed Oakley Crosslinks, Tomlinson went 1-for-2 in the Aces’ 7-6 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes Thursday. Reno took two of three to win their first series of the year.
Tomlinson has good vision without the spectacles, but he admits he’s relied on his glasses more than ever since coming to the Biggest Little City.
“I can tell my vision is a little bit worse now when I first started wearing glasses,” he chuckled. “It’s still probably around 20-30 I’d guess, but my eyes get even worse playing here at night.”
Tomlinson’s vision translates well to his patience at the plate. He drew a seven-pitch walk after getting down to a quick 0-2 count in the third inning. He’s drawn 58 walks in 273 career games with the San Francisco Giants and 231 for his minor league career.
“They just help me see the ball better,” he said. “I calm down and just take my time during (at-bats) so I can get the pitch I want. … I tried contacts for a year before I switched back. I’ve stuck with them ever since.”
While Tomlinson’s glasses helps him at the plate, it’s his versatile glove that has slotted him into the starting lineup. Serving as the Aces’ utility player, Tomlinson has started three games at second base, three games at shortstop and one game at third this season.
No matter where he is positioned in the infield, Tomlinson isn’t afraid to get the jersey dirty stopping line drives in the gap and displaying his cat-like quickness.
“I think that’s where the game is trending nowadays,” he said. “Being able to move around and create more flexibility in the lineup with matchups is important. For me, being able to play all over the infield gives myself and the team some versatility.”
Aces’ manager Chris Cron has taken notice of Tomlinson’s defensive prowess.
“He’s a guy we can plug in anywhere in the infield and know he can get the job done,” he said. “Not too many players like that come around too often.”
San Francisco selected Tomlinson in the 12th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech. The rangy infielder played 97 games with the Giants’ farm system before his big-league debut in 2015. He was nicknamed “specs” by teammates and coaches.
Stuck behind second baseman Joe Panik and three-time Gold Glove winning shortstop Brandon Crawford, Tomlinson split time between the Bay and Triple-A Sacramento for much of his career in the Bay Area.
He signed a minor league deal with the Dbacks in the offseason, ending a four-year tenure with the Giants.
Tomlinson is becoming a well-known face at Greater Nevada Field. He signed an autograph for a young fan who made the four-hour trip to see his Aces’ home debut.
“It’s great to show up here and get support from all these fans,” he said. “When I was with the Giants, it was always fun to come here and play and feel the energy from the fans here. So it’s nice to come here and still see them support me.”
Decker, Cron homer to lead Aces
Home runs from Cody Decker and Kevin Cron propelled the Aces to the series-clinching win.
Decker finished 1-for-3 with an opposite field jack that landed in the Isotopes’ bullpen. Decker’s solo shot marked his first homer of the season. He has 198 career home runs with 13 minor league teams.
Cron displayed some patience during his second homer of the year. He was out in front of Jeff Hoffman’s two-seam fastball in the fifth inning. The slugging first/third baseman waited back on the heater in his next at-bat and launched a three-run blast over the Aces’ video board in the seventh.
Cron finished 2-for-4 with a homer, double and a team-high four RBIs.
Reno recorded eight hits. Wyatt Mathisen finished 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. Travis Snider went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. He leads the Pacific Coast League with a .524 batting average. The veteran outfielder has appeared in 409 career minor league games.
Isotopes’ center fielder Noel Cuevas stayed hot on a cold night, going 2-for-4 with a home run, double and two RBIs. He hit for the Cycle in Albuquerque’s 13-2 win on Wednesday.
Starting pitcher Justin Donatella made his first career Triple-A start with Reno. A call-up from Double-A Jackson, the right-hander went 4.2 innings, giving up four earned runs on five hits and four strikeouts.
Donatella, 24, flashed a low 90s fastball that touched the lower-half of the strike zone. But his slider caught too much of the plate, which translated to a solo home run from Colorado Rockies’ top prospect Brendan Rodgers.
Donatella had some parting words for home plate umpire Junior Valentine before heading back to the Aces’ dugout.
Catcher Matt Jones also made his Triple-A debut behind the dish. Jones, 26, hit .250 with the Generals last season. He went 0-for-4 in the win.
Albuquerque jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second. Donatella walked in the first run of the contest with the bases loaded.
Back-to-back RBI doubles from Cron and Mathisen put the Aces up 3-2 in the third. Decker’s solo blast tacked on another run for Reno in the fourth.
The Isotopes regained the lead with a two-run fifth. Cron’s three-run homer put the Aces up 7-5 with two innings left to play.
Flame-throwing righty Jimmie Sherfy warmed things up in the bottom of the ninth at Greater Nevada Field. Sherfy recorded his franchise-record 49th career save with the Aces. His fastball touched 95 mph. He struck out Elliot Soto with the bases loaded to end the game.
Notes: On this date in 2010 the Diamondbacks scored a franchise-record 13 runs in the fourth inning of a 15-6 victory over Pittsburgh. … The Aces are fourth in the PCL Pacific Northern Division. The Fresno Grizzlies are atop the division with a 5-2 record. … There was a paid attendance of 2,866. … The Aces recorded 13 strikeouts and four errors, the first time since April 29, 2017. … Winning pitcher Alex Young was transferred to extended spring training on Friday, opening a roster spot for right-hander Jon Duplantier, who was sent down from Arizona.
On Deck: The Aces, 3-5, continue their seven-game homestand with a four-game series against the El Paso Chihuahuas, Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Right-handed pitcher Bryan Mitchell will get the nod for El Paso. Reno has not announced their starting pitcher for Friday.