Sometimes it is hard to remember that Fausto Carmona isn’t quite yet 27 years old. It is hard to remember because it is so easy to give up on him after the last two years. Two years of ineffective pitching is an eternity for stats-obsessed baseball fans. Between injuries and some mental blocks, it has been two long wasted years for Fausto Carmona. During these past two years, Carmona has gone 13-19 with a 5.89 ERA. The worst statistic being his average of 5.1 walks per nine innings. For whatever number of reasons Carmona has had a difficult time attacking the strike zone with his amazing stuff. If Manny Acta, Tim Belcher and Carmona’s personal catcher Mike Redmond can somehow get him to throw strikes, we might get to see the 23 year-old Carmona who won 19 games with a 3.06 ERA.
The old Fausto was on display against the Diamondbacks on Saturday. Carmona pitched 7 scoreless innings while giving up 3 hits. Most importantly, he had three strikeouts and no walks. Of course it is only spring training. Of course, the Diamondbacks lineup is a list of “Who’s that?” types of players as well. Still, over the course of seven innings have to do something right to keep getting guys out.
I don’t think anyone has ever questioned the movement on Carmona’s pitches. Well, maybe I questioned it a bit in 2006 when a potentially juiced up David Ortiz took Carmona deep to center in Fenway when the great Fausto-Carmona-as-Closer experiment was happening. After that, of course Carmona responded as a 23-year-old starter. The question this season – even as Carmona is the Tribe’s #2 starter by default – is exactly which Carmona is the real one. Can the new combination of people in the organization, including Manny Acta, Tim Belcher, and Sandy Alomar, somehow find a way to get Carmona to go right after hitters? Can they get him to do it on a consistent basis week in and week out all season long?
The Indians will need it if they expect to surprise anyone this year to be anything but the bottom rung of the AL Central ladder. The Indians’ starters are clearly its biggest question mark this year. Any time Jake Westbrook coming off of injury is the opening day starter by default is a problem. Still, the glass could be half full. The Indians have had a nice competition for the remaining starter spots in spring training. As we all know though, baseball is a momentum game. The Indians will need to find a streak starter (or stopper) somewhere in their rotation, and you should expect to find that at the top more often than at the bottom. That means it might have to be a resurgent Fausto Carmona.