After allowing just two walks all spring, it took Fausto Carmona two hitters to equal that number in his first start of 2010.
Collectively Cleveland sighed and exclaimed, "Oh boy, here we go again!"
He isn't fixed; he's still the same old rattled head case that can't throw strikes. This year is going to be even worse than we imagined. How could anyone put a single strand of hope into this enigma of a pitcher?
Carlos Quentin would eventually fly out and Paul Konerko would bring home the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. Remarkably, the damage was limited.
Carmona would later surrender a two-out two-run home run to Konerko after walking Quentin with two outs. It wouldn't be the last walk, but it would be the last hit Chicago would get off the right-hander.
He would end up walking six, but Carmona not only got through six innings of work in his first start against the White Sox, he showed tremendous resolve in not giving into some of the things that haunted him in the past.
In the past Carmona would have let things pile up, such as the walks, until it would eventually end in disaster. There were games in 2008 and 2009 in which Carmona would walk those hitters like he did in his first start, only he wouldn't get out of it.
He wouldn't find the double play or get the crucial strikeout. The runs would keep coming until eventually the hook had to come for him.
Some of his other problems were tested not only in the Chicago game, but in his latest two starts against Texas and Chicago.
In many cases the past few years, after he would get a lead or his offense would put him in a better position, Carmona would somehow lose it and cough his lead back up. The Indians managed to tie the game up against both the Rangers and White Sox and Carmona held serve.
After the Indians tied Chicago up in the fourth inning of their first game, Carmona went out and walked the leadoff hitter, Alex Rios. Then it was on for Carmona. He got a double play ball and cruised through the final three innings.
Against the Rangers in the sixth inning, Jhonny Peralta tied up the game at two apiece. Carmona responded by getting through the next two innings, yet he had runners on and threatening in both the seventh and eighth.
The resolve Carmona has shown has been refreshing and something Indians fans haven't seen since the 2007 ALDS.
In his latest game against Chicago he got staked to a huge 7-0 lead after two innings. Carmona was breezing by White Sox hitters until he reached the fifth inning, when trouble hit. He got hit for three runs in the inning and it went from an impressive start to a solid one.
But in the past there were days where it would have gone from a solid one, to a disappointing one.
Not this time. Carmona buckled down and got through one more inning without any more runs and the bullpen managed to nail it down to give Carmona his second win of the season.
Now this is all fine and dandy, but has Fausto really changed? He’s still walked 12 hitters on the season so far and while he has kept his team in the game all three times out, his ERA is far from impressive.
Look past the basic statistics to get all you need to know.
Carmona was killed against left-handed pitching last year, to the tune of a .331 average in nearly 300 at-bats. Small sample size, but he’s only allowed four hits to left-handers in 34 at-bats this season.
Again, small sample size but that is a drastic change from what happened last year. He couldn’t get a left-handed out to save his life; yet going into Sunday’s game he didn’t allow a single hit, and only two walks, to the left-handers.
We also know that Carmona makes his living off the ground ball out, and of course any double play that results from those ground balls. Last year in all but one start that he gave up less than three runs, he got at least 10 ground ball outs. The one he didn’t he only had nine ground ball outs.
This year he has hit at least nine groundball outs in all three contests. Yes, his fly ball out count is up a bit, but when you go at least six innings in every game, you are going to record more outs.
Be encouraged by the fact that he’s only given up one home run. As long as that ball is staying in the park, he can get as many fly ball outs as he wants.
The overall point here is that Carmona is pitching to get hitters out, not pitching to hitters hoping they’ll get themselves out. If you pitch like that, and he did last year, you aren’t going to get anyone out.
Sure he’ll walk some hitters, he may even get them down 0-2 and end up losing them at points, but he won’t be walking them because he is trying to be too fine. Does he need to strike out more than four hitters a game?
I don’t think so, and I’d actually prefer it if he didn’t. He’s not on my fantasy team, so I’m in no need of some extra strikeouts. The less strikeouts, the more pitches he will be able to throw and the deeper he’ll be able to get into games.
Carmona is displaying more qualities of an actual pitcher. Will he be able to occasionally give you the strong, almost dominant looking start? Perhaps, but as long as he is going out there and giving you a chance to win, that’s all you should expect from him.
We are witnessing a different Fausto Carmona on the mound. He isn’t the 19-game winner, nor the shell of that 19-game winner that struggled with walks, or even the forgettable beaten-up relief pitcher.
He’s confident in his abilities, more focused on the task at hand, and most importantly, still a very talented pitcher. If all that doesn’t add up to being a reliable starting pitcher, then I don’t know what does.