CHICAGO -- Fausto Carmona began this season as the Indians' Opening Day starter for a reason. The Tribe was counting on him to be the rotation's ace, as well as a workhorse capable of providing stability within a young starting staff.
Over the past month, Carmona has looked every bit the leader Cleveland hoped he would be this season. The problem is that his recent stretch of strong performances has followed a series of outings that can only be described as enigmatic.
The Tribe is hoping Carmona has turned a corner.
"It's been very important for our ballclub," Acta said of Carmona's improvement. "You really want to have five guys that can give you a chance every five days. He's a guy who did that for us last year, but he was inconsistent in the first half. He had some good moments and bad moments.
"It's been pretty important for us, because he's a guy that coming into this year, and looking at our rotation, he's one of those guys that we're counting on."
Over his past six starts -- dating back to Carmona's return from the 15-day disabled list on July 18 after a bout with a right quadriceps injury -- the sinkerballer has gone 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA. Over 41 innings during that span, Carmona has limited hitters to a .222 average.
In Carmona's previous 10 turns, the right-hander went 1-7 with a 7.69 ERA and a .306 opponents' batting average across 52 2/3 innings.
Acta said the biggest difference has been Carmona's pitch distribution. Earlier this season, Carmona was relying too heavily on his slider in critical situations. Acta noted that the pitcher has gone back to using his signature sinker more often, which has helped lead to better results.
"He's a sinkerballer," Acta said. "He's a guy that shouldn't be allowing as many home runs  as he has so far this year. A lot of them early in the year came on offspeed stuff. When he's as dominant as he can be, he relies a lot on that power sinker and just mixes the offspeed stuff here and there to keep guys off of it."
Asked why Carmona turned away from his sinker earlier in the year, Acta did not have a clear answer.
"I'm not so sure," Acta said. "There are times that guys might get hit here and there and they lose confidence and they start trying to make adjustments, where you probably don't need to make any adjustments. There are times when you're going to get hit. That's it. Period. No one is going to be perfect."
Kipnis scratched, could be headed to DL
CHICAGO -- Mere minutes before the Indians' lineup card was going to be turned in to the umpires on Thursday night, rookie Jason Kipnis injured his right hamstring while warming up down the right-field line at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kipnis was scratched from the order at the last possible second.
"We had to make the switch, on the run," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "With a pen."
It was an unfortunate turn of events for Kipnis, who was looking forward to taking the field for the first time in his home state as a big leaguer. Now, it appears as though Kipnis is heading to the 15-day disabled list with the hamstring issue, along with a right oblique strain that has bothered him for the past week.
Utility infielder Luis Valbuena -- still technically on Triple-A Columbus' roster -- was already in the visitors' clubhouse in Chicago after the Tribe's 4-2 win over the White Sox on Thursday. Barring a swift recovery by Kipnis, Valbuena will likely be officially recalled from the Minors prior to Friday's game in Detroit.
"I guess destiny had it that he wasn't supposed to play in front of his family and friends," Acta said. "It's sad. It looks like with the combination of that [hamstring], and [the oblique] he's battling through, that he might be a DL candidate."
Prior to Thursday's game, Kipnis was in the starting lineup after resting his sore oblique for the past five days. Acta had planned on easing the second baseman back into the mix over the course of the next week to 10 days, using input from Kipnis and the team's medical staff to manage his playing time.
If Kipnis is placed on the 15-day disabled list, Cleveland will have the ability to make the stint retroactive to Saturday, meaning he would become eligible for activation on Aug. 28. Jason Donald replaced Kipnis at second base on Thursday and would likely continue to fill in for the rookie during his absence.
Kipnis' absence on Thursday -- after resting for the past five days -- served as bad news for the host of his family and friends that had been at U.S. Cellular Field for this series. Kipnis is a native of Northbrook, Ill., and had numerous fans in attendance over the past three days.
The Indians will surely be happy to have Kipnis back at second base and in the second spot of the lineup when he is able. In his first 18 games for Cleveland after being promoted from Columbus, he hit .279 with six home runs, four doubles, 11 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
Kipnis hurt his side during the Tribe's 14-inning game against the Tigers on Aug. 9. One day later, he went 5-for-5 in a 10-3 victory over Detroit while playing through some discomfort.
Carrasco may not be activated until September
CHICAGO -- Carlos Carrasco is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Friday, but it appears as though the Indians are planning on waiting until September before adding him to the pitching staff again.
"That's probably the way it's going to work out," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field, "just because of the timing of everything."
Carrasco, who is currently on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right elbow, is scheduled to serve a six-game suspension upon activation. By waiting until Sept. 1, when rosters expand, Cleveland can keep its current rotation intact and provide Carrasco with more time to rest his arm.
As things stand at the moment, the Tribe's starting staff includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and David Huff. Huff would need to be optioned to the Minors if Carrasco were to rejoin the rotation prior to Sept. 1. However, by waiting until then, the Indians would not need to remove Huff from the roster.
If Huff (1-1 with a 0.51 ERA through four appearances) continues to provide the Tribe with a solid left-handed option, there is a good chance he will remain in the rotation upon Carrasco's return. Under that scenario, Carrasco would likely be put into the bullpen as a long reliever and spot starter.
Acta acknowledged that possibility on Thursday.
"If Huff continues to pitch well," Acta said, "Carrasco could come back in the bullpen."
Carrasco opened the season as the Indians' No. 2 starter and has gone 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 starts this season. The pitcher has also had two stints on the DL with the same elbow injury. In his last outing on Aug. 3, Carrasco gave up three runs on nine hits in seven innings on the road against the Red Sox.
Quote to note
"If you're going to be living on the edge in every single one of them, you're going to need some pills." --Indians manager Manny Acta, joking about the stresses of a playoff race
Outfielder Austin Kearns was officially released by the Indians on Thursday. Kearns, who was signed to a one-year contract worth $1.3 million over the winter, hit .200 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 52 games for Cleveland this season. He was designated for assignment on Friday.
Lonnie Chisenhall was out of the starting lineup for the second straight day on Thursday, but Indians manager Manny Acta said there was nothing ailing the young third baseman. Acta gave the left-handed-hitting Chisenhall the day off on Wednesday against White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. On Thursday, Acta said he wanted Jack Hannahan (a stellar defender) at third with Tribe sinkerballer Justin Masterson on the mound.
Louisville Slugger, which is Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan's bat of choice, has sent a specialized bat to Hannahan and his family in honor of the birth of their son, Johnny. The bat has Johnny Hannahan's name, birth date (Aug. 5) and birth weight (2 pounds, 12 ounces) engraved on it.
The Indians' road game against the White Sox on Sept. 10 has been picked up by FOX for a national broadcast. As a result, the game will now begin at 4:11 p.m. ET. It was originally scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.