Young righty has rebounded with devastating sinker
Posted: Friday October 12, 2007 2:43PM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 3:00PM
Baseball's always been a game of thirds: The third strike, third out, and in the case of Cleveland closer-turned-starter Fausto Carmona, Newton's Third Law.
For every action, the English mathematician stated and the Dominican right-hander has proved, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Carmona's career seemed like it was heading straight down in 2006 when he became just the second major league pitcher to lose four games in relief in a seven-day span. But true to Newton's Law, Carmona rebounded with force, speed.
On Saturday in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, Carmona takes the mound at Fenway Park, where on July 31, 2006 Boston's David Ortiz sent a 2-0, 96-mph fastball into the seats to begin a string of three blown saves in three consecutive ninth-inning appearances for Carmona. Now, however, he's back as a starter with 19 wins, the AL's second-best ERA (3.06), and one nasty sinker.
Some of the credit for Carmona's resurgence belongs to none other than... Jon Garland? After what Cleveland now terms "The Closer Experiment," Indians pitching coach Carl Willis used video of the Chicago White Sox right-hander whose 6-foot-6, 215-pound build and high-speed sinker mirror that of the 6-4, 220-pound Carmona, to reclaim his delivery.
During his first run through the majors last year, Willis says, Carmona tried overthrowing and, in turn, he sat on his back leg, lengthened his stride and couldn't whip his arm around for his follow-through. "He couldn't finish," says Willis. And as a result, he couldn't close.
"[We] really just had Fausto watch Jon Garland's effort level because he is so under control. He never really gets out of line or overthrows," says Willis. "This season has been the reward for it because he's been able to go out there and maintain that delivery, not getting overamped or trying to overthrow."
Making mechanical adjustments so that Carmona could get his upper body over his knee resulted in his finishing off his pitches, and in turn opposing batters. Carmona dominated the Yankees last Friday with a nine-inning, three-hit, five-strikeout outing in Cleveland's 2-1 win in Game 2 of the ALDS despite a swarm of mayflies using his neck as a landing strip.
In the second half of the season, he led the majors in ERA (2.26), and over the course of the year held opponents to the third-lowest slugging percentage (.352). His hard sinker produced a major-league best 32 double plays, which could be crucial in a matchup with Red Sox longballers Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Carmona's ability to induce ground balls helped the Indians to a 1-0 win over Josh Beckett and the Red Sox on July 25 in Cleveland, during which Carmona held the potent Boston lineup to four hits over eight innings.
One AL scout says that as impressive as Carmona's sinker is, it's his rebound that's astounding. "[Last season] could have messed with his psyche," he says, "but it tells you a lot about the intelligence of the kid to make adjustments that quickly." The scout also predicts that the Red Sox batters will move up in the box to try and avoid the late movement in Carmona's pitches. Because, right now, the only thing about Carmona that's heading down -- and fast -- is his sinker.