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Carmona on verge of breakthrough?

By Sheldon Published: July 1, 2009

  CLEVELAND: The last time Fausto Carmona was seen in Cleveland, he was dragging around a 2-6 record and 7.42 eared-run average. ¶
   That was enough to get him sent to the minors, first in Goodyear, with the Indians' Arizona summer league team, then to Lake County to make a start for the Captains and on to Akron, for whom Carmona started a game at Bowie Tuesday night. ¶
   Tribe officials are looking at his most recent outing as a breakthrough event, because in throwing 74 percent of his pitches for strikes, it meant that Carmona kept his emotions in check and did not overthrow his fastball. ¶
   ""Even at Lake County, he would get two strikes on a batter and come out of his delivery, trying to do more than he needed to do,'' said pitching coach Carl Willis, who has kept in close contact with the Tribe's minor-league operatives who are overseeing Carmona's resurrection. ¶
   Pitching against Double-A hitters with the Aeros, Carmona displayed better control of himself. ¶
   ""He was more aware of his emotions and staying in his delivery,'' Willis said. ""After he gave up a solo homer, he got right back in his delivery.'' ¶
   Carmona's problems have never been caused by inferior stuff or an inability to throw strikes but difficulty in understanding that he doesn't have to exert more than normal effort to retire -- even dominate -- major-league hitters. ¶
   ""It doesn't matter so much if they're A-ball hitters or Double-A hitters,'' Willis said. ""It's that 74 percent strike figure. When he sees that number and that he can keep the ball on the ground, he'll know that he doesn't have to do more.'' ¶
   Manager Eric Wedge listened to the reports about Carmona's start for Akron and concluded, ""There are some intangibles that we're starting to see.'' ¶
   Why did Carmona begin to feel he had to amp up his performance after a 2007 season in which he posted a 19-8 record and 3.06 ERA? ¶
   ""He had such a good year, and he was locked into a routine,'' Willis said. ""But all of a sudden the season ended, and he started to realize what he did. When the next season came around, he put different expectations on himself. I think that affected him. And when things didn't go as he wanted, he tried to do more.'' ¶
   Carmona's slide began last year, when he compiled a 8-7 record and a 5.44 ERA and was forced to make corrections in the minors. ¶
   ""It's tough to learn (to control your emotions) when you're pitching at this level,'' Willis said. ""Everybody is looking at you.'' ¶
    Carmona probably will start for either Akron or Columbus on Sunday. After that, it's unclear what will happen, but conceivably he could be back in the Indians' rotation. ¶
   SHIFTING ASSIGNMENTS -- Kelly Shoppach is ostensibly the Indians' backup catcher, but so far he has started behind the plate 41 times, compared to 39 times for regular catcher Victor Martinez, who also has played 37 games at first base. ¶
   However, Shoppach has not responded to his increased responsibility in a positive way, batting .200 with six home runs and 19 RBI. Moreover, he has struck out 52 times for an average of once every 2.8 at-bats. ¶
  Shoppach was given more playing time this year because he hit 21 home runs as a part-timer iunb 2008. ¶
   ""With the way Kelly has struggled offensively, Victor is going to put in more time behind the plate,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ¶
   That's where Martinez was Wednesday night against the White Sox. ¶
   EASTERN HONORS -- Five Akron Aeros have been chosen for the Eastern League All-Star Game in Trenton N.J. on July 15: first baseman Beau Mills, catcher Carlos Santana, outfielder Nick Weglarz, right-hander Hector Rondon, and closer Vinnie Pestano. ¶
   FARM FACTS -- Jordan Brown doubled, singled twice and had two RBI in Columbus' 9-6 loss to Durham. Wyatt Toregas had two hits and two RBI. *elip Ole Sheldon homered and singled, driving in two runs in Kinston's 6-5 loss to Myrtle Beach in the first game a doubleheader. In the second game, Ryan Morris gave up one run and three his in five innngs, striking out seven, as Kinston earned a 7-2 win. *elip T.J. House threw five scoreless innings, allowing five hits, as Lake County lost 5-4 West Virginia in the first of two games. Alexander Perez (5-3, 2.88 ERA) yielded two runs in 62/3 innings, but Lake County was blanked 3-0 in the second game. *elip Jason Smit tripled, doubled and drove in two runs, as Mahoning Valley beat State College 6-4. ¶

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