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Moving back to rotation was a relief for Carmona

ALCS NOTES

October 13, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Lucky for the Cleveland Indians, Fausto Carmona was shakier as a closer than even Joe Borowski on his worst days.

Otherwise, they might not have moved the 23-year-old right-hander back into the rotation in September 2006, and Carmona might not have become one of baseball's most dominant starters, the youngest Indians right-hander to win 17 or more games since Bob Feller did it four times from 1938-41, at ages 19-22.

Carmona, who will start Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox tonight, combined a 97-mph fastball with a power sinker to go 19-8 with a 3.06 earned-run average and induce 32 double plays, tied for the league lead.

Playoff jitters? In his first postseason start, Carmona gave up one run and three hits in nine innings of a 2-1, 10-inning win over the Yankees in Game 2 of the division series, a performance that has one of the game's most accomplished playoff pitchers, Boston's Curt Schilling, shrinking in stature.

"I know enough to know I'd rather be facing somebody else," said Schilling, who will take a 9-2 postseason record and 1.93 ERA into tonight's start. "This kid is something else. The game he threw in New York was just a dominating, dominating outing. He's as good as anybody I've seen this year.

"You know, it's been a long time, I think, since I've gone into a game being an underdog, but given the year he had and the way he's throwing, I can absolutely see why people think we're going to have a hard time winning this game. His stuff is electric, and he's been fun to watch."

Carmona was one of the league's top setup men in 2006 when the Indians moved him to closer in July. A four-game stretch from July 30 to Aug. 5, in which Carmona went 0-4 with three blown saves and gave up 11 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, ended that experiment.

Carmona, who'd started three games in April before moving to the bullpen, was put back in the rotation, where he has thrived.

"Did he learn something from it? No doubt about it," Manager Eric Wedge said of Carmona's closing woes. "Is he a better pitcher today? No doubt about it. He's tougher, he's more experienced. I think he'd be successful in any role we put him in, but I think right now it's in our best interest to keep him starting for us."

This might nauseate Angels fans: Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 Friday night was Danny Vinik, the 17-year-old fan who snatched a foul pop out of Angels catcher Jeff Mathis' glove in Game 2 of the division series, extending a Manny Ramirez at-bat and an inning in which the Red Sox scored the tying run. The Red Sox won the game, 6-3.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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