© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/21/07 8:38 PM ET
Notes: Carmona maturing on mound
Young righty expanding pitch repertoire and getting results
By Ken Daley / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- As excited as the Indians were in the wake of Fausto Carmona's exceptional start on Friday night, there were even more lingering good feelings on Saturday over how he got through his eight shutout innings against the Rangers. "He was pretty filthy," said closer Joe Borowski, who overcame two unearned runs in the ninth to save Carmona's 3-2 victory. "And you can see it: Every time he goes out there, he has more and more confidence. That's a lethal mix right there." Pitching coach Carl Willis said Carmona took an important step Friday toward the maturity that could help him reach his star potential. "Last night, truthfully, was a bit of a different game for him because he executed all three of his pitches," Willis said. "He's had tremendous success with the sinker and changeup, but [Friday] night, I thought he utilized his slider more than he had in the past. And with the late action he has, when he can bring the slider into play, it really makes it difficult for hitters. "He's been outstanding, basically, with two pitches. Last night, he had three." The importance of that can't be understated. Though Carmona is 12-4, trailing only teammate C.C. Sabathia (13-4) and Boston's Josh Beckett (13-3) for most wins in the American League, he was gaining a reputation as a one-trick pony. His sinking, two-seam fastball can be such a devastating pitch, scouts noticed him sometimes relying on it too much. "Hitters are going up there, a lot of them, looking for the pitch," Willis said. "But they're still either hitting it on the ground or swinging over it." On Friday, Carmona allowed the Rangers only three hits and three walks, and just one runner to advance past first base in eight innings. He struck out seven (one shy of his career high), mostly with the changeup. With the sinker, he induced 14 ground-ball outs, including three double-play balls. And by judiciously employing the slider, he kept Rangers hitters guessing all night. Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira called Carmona's performance "incredible." Willis said adding the slider is "going to make him better, it's going to help his pitch count, it's going to make him more efficient." Manager Eric Wedge also was encouraged by Carmona's expanding repertoire. "He's always had the repertoire you see now, but it was always a question about the consistency and the action on the pitches," Wedge said. "Now, you're seeing all of that." Carmona, who is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four July starts, is scheduled to oppose Beckett next Wednesday at Jacobs Field. Jersey Joe unfazed: As impressive as Carmona's eight shutout innings was Borowski's determination to save Friday's win in the face of daunting odds. Ninth-inning miscues by three different infielders enabled the Rangers to score two unearned runs and load the bases with two out before Borowski struck out Brad Wilkerson to end the game. "He's a tough cookie," Wedge said of Borowski, who has converted 28 of 31 save chances and is nearing his career high of 36 in a season. "He's focused, disciplined, able to keep his mind in the moment. I mean, you can't have more adversity in the ninth inning and still win the game than what he went through." Borowski shrugged it off and said he was most happy about saving the game and sparing several teammates some guilt. "These guys have played good defense all year, so that's not going to happen often and hopefully, everybody got it out of their systems," he said. "But that would've been a loss a lot of people would have felt responsible for, not just me. So, for that, I'm relieved. Because, it's things like that that can force a team into a bad slide." Here's the question: In Sabathia (13-4) and Carmona (12-4), the Indians have two starting pitchers with a chance to win 20 games. The Indians have not had a 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry went 21-13 in 1974, the longest such drought in the Majors. Can you name the two franchises that have had the next-longest droughts since their last 20-game winner, and the three that have never had a pitcher win 20 games? Blake, Nixon sit: Wedge started Mike Rouse and Ben Francisco on Saturday in place of third baseman Casey Blake and outfielder Trot Nixon, respectively. It was just part of Wedge's continuing mission to rotate nearly every starter out of the lineup at least once as the Indians play 17 games in the first 17 days after the All-Star break. "I'm just looking to get the most production we can out of our guys," Wedge said, "and the way to do that is to keep them fresh." Down on the farm: Left-hander Jeremy Sowers finally had an encouraging start at Triple-A Buffalo, stopping his four-game losing streak and the Bisons' six-game skid by going the distance to beat Syracuse, 6-2, on six hits with eight strikeouts. ... Double-A Akron split a doubleheader with Reading as closer Randy Newsom notched his 14th save in the opener but gave up two runs in the seventh inning to lose the nightcap, 2-1. ... Class A Kinston beat Frederick, 7-5, as third baseman Wes Hodges and left fielder John Drennen hit back-to-back homers to ignite a seven-run third. ... Lefty Ryan Morris pitched five shutout inning with one hit allowed, but his Class A Lake County team still lost a 2-0 decision to Greensboro. Tribe tidbits: The Rangers staged a 30-minute ceremony before Saturday's game to honor Sammy Sosa for slugging his 600th career home run on June 20 against Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis. Among the VIPs taking part was action-film actor Vin Diesel. ... Texas All-Star Michael Young was in the lineup after missing the first two games of the series to attend a family funeral in California. ... Entering Saturday, the Indians were 35-8 in games in which they outhit their opponents. They were 11-2 when they had the same number of hits. And the answer is: The San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos-Washington Nationals franchises each have not had a 20-game winner since 1978. The more recent expansion teams in Colorado, Florida and Tampa Bay have never had a 20-game winner. Up next: Indians right-hander Paul Byrd (7-4, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to face Rangers righty Robinson Tejeda (5-8, 6.68 ERA) in the finale of this four-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. ET.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.