CARMONA YET TO CONQUER GREATEST ADVERSARY--HIMSELF
New Indians "closer" Fausto Carmona has, in my opinion, been the Indians best pitching prospect for the past couple of years.
Even with his third consecutive ninth-inning loss last night, I'm still not ready to recant on that statement. I do, however, think it only stengthens my assertion that Carmona is meant to be a starter, not a reliever.
Yes, Carmona thrived for much of the year as an eighth-inning set-up man, kind of in the same mold as Julian Tavarez (well, for 1995, at least.) He struggled as a starter in his few outings. But moving Carmona to the closer's role upon trading Bob Wickman was a move he just wasn't ready for. That much is poignantly evident.
Though the fickle fury among Cleveland fans is calling for young Fausto's head on a platter, or at least for his demotion to Buffalo, I must remind everyone that wins and losses this year mean less than the experience guys like Carmona are getting.
Last night, Carmona dominated Willy Mo Pena and Coco Crisp for the first two outs of the ninth. His "stuff," which features a devastating slider, was there. For two hitters, his command was there. For once, he appeared as though he wasn't trying to throw the ball through a brick wall. So if his mechanics were flawless for two hitters, and all he needed was to retire the light-hitting Doug Mirabelli, what on Earth could have caused his implosion?
Just like Yogi said, 90% of baseball is half-mental.
Carmona was staring his first big-league save in the eye, and he flat out crumbled under the pressure. When he took Mirabelli to a full count, the raccous Fenway crowd got into his head, nested, and festered there. He plunked him, then Gonzalez, and we all knew what was going to happen next.
I thought Wedge might pull him, but I'm glad he didn't. Mota probably would have let the inherited runners score anyway.
I'm not trying to make excuses for him or have pity on him. After all, Wedge and Shapiro don't care how many times he screws it up, they're going to keep sending him out there until he gets it right, which eventually he will.
But very few pitchers have the Bob Wickman- (yes, he had it) or the Mariano Rivera-like psyche; they can't get geared up just to work one inning when the game is on the line. Too much pressure.
The thought of a full start--6, 7, or 8 innings--probably terrifies Carmona much less than a ninth-inning gauntlet.
My proposition: move Carmona into the role as a long reliever/spot starter. This way, you're guaranteed to go light on innings for Sabathia, Lee, Westbrook, Byrd, and Sowers the rest of the way out. For the rest of the year, use Mota, Cabrera, or even Jason Davis as the closer. If Carmona continues to struggle with his mental control as a starter, then obviously they'll need to send him back to Buffalo.
I don't think that will happen, though. Most scouts said in Spring Training that Carmona was ready for the majors, and I agree. Looking at him on the mound reminds me of a young Pedro Martinez, in delivery and style if not yet in domination.
With the success of Sowers and the continued progress of Adam Miller, the Indians know they have two guys who can develop into stud pitchers. Regardless of what has happened in the past week, I think they have a third in Carmona.