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Indians send struggling Carmona to rookie-ball

Jun 5, 2009, 3:16 PM EDT

Fausto Carmona coughing up seven runs in two innings against the Twins
last night was apparently the final straw for the Indians, as they
dropped the struggling right-hander from the rotation and sent him to
the minors this afternoon.

Rather than simply option him to Triple-A, the Indians have decided
to send Carmona all the way down rookie-ball, although with the Arizona
League still a couple weeks from getting underway it looks like he’ll
basically just be at extended spring training for a while.

Clearly the Indians feel that his struggles go beyond simply
pitching poorly and extend to the erosion of his mechanics or mental
state. Or maybe both. While extreme, the move is not totally without
precedent. Roy Halladay and Dontrelle Willis are examples of big-name
pitchers who were sent to the low minors at the peak of their
struggles, with the demotion working wonders for Halladay and, so far
at least, doing little for Willis.

Carmona came out of nowhere to finish fourth in the Cy Young
balloting two years ago, using his power sinker to go 19-8 with a 3.06
ERA and 137/61 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. Since then he has a 6.10 ERA
and 94/111 K/BB ratio in 181 innings, including an MLB-worst 41 walks
in 61 frames this season. He’s still working at 92-94 miles per hour
and still getting tons of ground balls, but just can’t throw the ball
over the plate consistently (although he’s not in Rick Ankiel
territory).

As part of the contract extension that Carmona signed in April of
last year, the Indians owe him $4.9 million next season and $6.1
million in 2011, and then have $28 million worth of team options from
2012-2014. Locking players up before they hit arbitration is a strategy
that the Indians and other teams have used successfully over the years,
but Carmona is looking like an example of how it can backfire.

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