Indians' Carmona on comeback trail


Cliff Lee's replacement in the Tribe's rotation? A familiar face. Anthony Castrovince:

    The Indians are replacing their No. 1 starter with their old No. 2. Cliff Lee's move to Philadelphia opens the door for Fausto Carmona's return to the big leagues.
    The Indians made the bold move of optioning Carmona, their former 19-game winner, to the rookie-level Arizona League on June 5. Two months, four Minor League stops and hours of fine-tuning later, Carmona is coming back.


    Carmona was 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 41 walks over 60 2/3 innings in 12 starts for an Indians team that was counting on him to be a key figure in the rotation after a disappointing 2008. In seven starts in the Minors, Carmona went 3-3 with a 2.72 ERA, 39 strikeouts and seven walks over 46 1/3 innings.

    With Columbus, Carmona was 1-3 with a 3.55 ERA in five starts. He walked six and struck out 27 over 33 innings, with five homers allowed.

As you might recall, just two years ago Carmona turned in one of the more surprising seasons anyone's ever seen, going from 1-10 as a rookie in 2006 to 19-8 in 2007.
Carmona's line in '06 and '07 included 290 innings and a 2.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That's fine; many pitchers can survive with a K/BB ratio slightly below 2, but that's a solid baseline.

Since 2007, Carmona's pitched 181 innings with a 0.85 K/BB ratio. Last year it was 0.83; this year it was 0.85. Not to belabor the obvious or anything, but when your K/BB ratio starts with a zero, it means you're walking more batters than you're striking out, which these days simply isn't acceptable. There was a time when that could actually work -- as recently as the 1950s, lots of good pitchers did that -- but that time is not now.

So Carmona's strikeout and walk numbers in the minors, these last couple of months, are encouraging. There's really nothing not to like, except for those five homers he gave up with Columbus. But Carmona seems to me a delicate sort of flower, who will always be just a lousy outing or a small injury from shriveling again, perhaps permanently.