Tribe signs Carmona to long-term deal
Young right-hander's contract could last seven years
CLEVELAND -- Fausto Carmona comes from a small Dominican village with a big name.Naranjo Atta Viejo Yamasa, D.R., is not exactly an easy name to pronounce, so perhaps a new one is in order. "Soon," said Indians first-base coach Luis Rivera, "they'll call it 'Fausto Country.'" That would merely be the latest achievement for the happy and humble Carmona. He overcame the debacle that was his short stint as the Indians' closer in 2006. He overcame the midges that descended upon his outing against the Yankees in last fall's American League Division Series. And now, he's been handed the largest guaranteed contract ever afforded a pre-arbitration starting pitcher. The Indians and Carmona announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a four-year, $15 million pact, through 2011. The deal also includes individual club options for 2012, '13 and '14. If the deal maxes out, Carmona will make $43 million, with the potential to make another $5 million in escalators. Not a bad deal for a guy who just reached two years of big league service time this past week. "I'm very proud of what I've accomplished," Carmona said through Rivera, acting as an interpreter. "I'm thankful to the organization for this contract and for allowing me to be a part of this organization for years to come." The 24-year-old Carmona would have been under the Indians' contractual control through 2012, anyway. But as was the case with the Grady Sizemore deal of 2006, the club took the opportunity to have an accurate projection for Carmona's value down the road, so they can budget accordingly. And they feel comfortable putting their faith in Carmona. "We talk a lot about the kind of players we want Cleveland Indians players to be," Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Among those are smart and tough. There may not be a guy on our team who is more reflective of that toughness or of that baseball intelligence than Fausto." It took toughness for Carmona to endure the memorable week in which he went 0-4 and blew three saves after taking over the closing duties for Bob Wickman. That stretch marred an otherwise impressive big league break-in in which Carmona was solid as a spot starter and superb in a setup role out of the bullpen. As it turned out, the positives of '06 were more a sign of things to come than anything on the negative end. "[The blown saves were] fodder for ESPN and everybody else in the country," Shapiro said. "In reality, Fausto used every experience he had, through his adversity and his success in that year, and went back, went to work, made adjustments and made himself one of the most dominant starting pitchers last year." Carmona wasn't even expected to be in the Indians' rotation at the outset of last season. An abdominal injury to Cliff Lee opened up a spot for him out of Spring Training, and a similar injury to Jake Westbrook in May allowed him to stay. It's safe to say Carmona is in the mix for good now. He was outstanding in 2007, going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 starts. The ERA was the second-lowest in the AL, behind the Angels' John Lackey (3.01). And the 19 wins, also posted by staff ace C.C. Sabathia, were the most by an Indians pitcher since Bert Blyleven's 19 wins in 1984. With Sabathia's contract status still in limbo, it's reasonable to speculate that Carmona might be counted on to be the new ace of the staff in 2009 and beyond. "I'm not thinking about that," Carmona said. "I want C.C. to stay and be the No. 1. I want C.C. to be a part of this." Shapiro and assistant general manager Chris Antonetti made it a point to stress that Carmona's deal has nothing to do with the situation involving Sabathia, who broke off contract talks with the Tribe at the outset of Spring Training and is eligible for free agency after this season. "They're really separate issues," said Antonetti, who negotiated the Carmona deal with agent Jorge Brito. "This is about Fausto and what he's done and the player and person he is." Shapiro said the Carmona deal, combined with the recent long-term contracts handed to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner, has no impact on the money the Indians could allocate toward a Sabathia extension. "Every single contract we do is interrelated, to some extent," Shapiro said. "Nothing we've done to date is prohibitive toward any product going forward." Carmona has had no trouble going forward after his breakout '07 season. He is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts against the White Sox and Angels. The Indians originally signed Carmona and placed him in their Dominican academy in December of 2000, when he was just 17 years old. He grew up in the Dominican idolizing Pedro Martinez, and he first learned how to play the game with neighborhood kids in the street. Perhaps now the kids in the street of "Fausto Country" will have a new pitcher to emulate. "Maybe," Carmona said, flashing his ever-present smile.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.