Baseball

August 19, 2007

StartingPoint

Indiansrighthander Fausto Carmona has bounced back from his debacle as a closer todominate in the rotation

A YEAR AGOIndians righthander Fausto Carmona was a failure of historic proportions,becoming just the second major league pitcher to lose four games in relief in aspan of seven days. During that stretch in July and August, he blew saves inthree consecutive ninth-inning appearances. But recast this season as astarter, Carmona has emerged as a surprise candidate for the AL Cy YoungAward.

Armed with astrong work ethic; a dynamic, mid-90s sinking fastball; and a newfound abilityto slow down the game, Carmona, 23, was tied for fourth in the AL with 13 winsand had a 3.26 ERA through Sunday. After outdueling Red Sox righthander JoshBeckett and shutting down arguably the league's top lineup for a 1--0 win lastmonth, Carmona followed his typical postgame routine, hitting the weight roomto improve his shoulder strength and stamina. With Indians first base coachLuis Rivera acting as his interpreter, Carmona, who is from the DominicanRepublic, said of his extensive workout regimen, "This is fun for me. I doit with joy."

His seriousnature and relish for hard work helped Carmona respond to his disastrous stintas a closer. He embraced winter ball and enhanced his repertoire, adding asuperb change-up and a fine slider to go with his calling card, a two-seamsinker. "He never doubted himself," says Indians general manager MarkShapiro. "He just kept stressing that he will get it straightenedout."

Still, Carmonaonly made the team this season because starting pitcher Cliff Lee went on theDL with a strained abdominal muscle. He lasted 4 1/3 innings in his firstouting but bounced back to win two starts in April. After spending a week atTriple A Buffalo, Carmona was recalled six days later when righthander JakeWestbrook also strained an abdominal muscle. Carmona went on to win five timesin May, and he and lefty C.C. Sabathia became the first pair of Indianspitchers to win 10 games before the All-Star break since Early Wynn and BobLemon did it in 1956.

Although he was5--1 in July and has a 1.70 ERA in his last five starts, Carmona has remainedlargely unrecognized. "He's got good stuff. I'd been telling people that,and they were looking at me like I was crazy," Tigers center-fielder CurtisGranderson says. "I mentioned in my blog at mid-season that he should be inCy Young consideration. Everybody was like, 'I agree with all your other picks.But this Fausto Carmona pick, you must be doing it as a favor.'"

After Carmonabeat Minnesota ace Johan Santana in consecutive starts earlier this year, Twinscenterfielder Torii Hunter said that he felt like he was "hungover"trying to hit Carmona's sinking fastball. He added that he was grateful to begoing next to Milwaukee to face "normal pitchers."

Carmona, who hashelped put the Indians in position to win their first division title in sixyears, knows his work is not done, though. Says Shapiro, "He's neversatisfied being good. He wants to be great."

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Touching 'Em All

With David Ortiz struggling at the plate because of abad left shoulder, the Red Sox must regret not getting Jermaine Dye from theWhite Sox at the trade deadline. Headed for free agency after the season, Dye(right) at week's end was hitting .351 with five home runs in August and ledthe majors in slugging since the All-Star break. Now he's likely to re-signwith Chicago.... Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, 30, the reigningJapan Central League MVP, will have season-ending surgery to remove bonefragments in his right elbow but will still be one of the most coveted freeagents next winter. He'll command a four- to five-year deal worth up to $15million a year.... In April the Cubs pulled their offer of a five-year, $85million extension to Carlos Zambrano, but it appears the righthander won'tsuffer for it. After starting the season 5--5 with a 5.62 ERA, Zambrano hasgone 9--3 with a 2.06 ERA and stands to get a better deal.

PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (CARMONA)IN COMMAND Carmona is tied for fourth in the league with 13 wins and has a 1.70 ERA in his last five starts. PHOTOCHUCK RYDLEWSKI/WIREIMAGE.COM (DYE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)