DETROIT — Fausto Carmona’s successful string as a starting pitcher this year has come as a surprise to many, but not to teammate Jake Westbrook.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all the way he’s stepped up and done what he’s done,” said Westbrook, who is on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle, while Carmona fills his spot in the rotation. “It was just a matter of time before he figured it out.”
Carmona is a different pitcher than he was last year, a season on the brink for the 23-year-old right-hander, who endured a disastrous spell as Cleveland’s closer. Carmona, who took a 5-1 record and 2.77 ERA into his ninth start Sunday, is 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last six outings.
“You look at his stuff, that’s way above-average stuff,” Westbrook said, “like when I was younger … with much lesser stuff.”
If Carmona’s effort continues, the Indians will have a difficult decision to make when Westbrook leaves the disabled list. Either Carmona or Jeremy Sowers will have to go.
That day is still down the road a bit, with head trainer Lonnie Soloff saying the Indians were looking at a mid-June return for Westbrook, who is scheduled to throw a simulated game in Boston on Tuesday, before beginning a minor league rehab assignment.
Fultz is fine
Left-handed specialist Aaron Fultz entered Sunday issuing walks to the last two batters he’s faced in two appearances, but manager Eric Wedge isn’t worried he’s lost his touch.
“He’s thrown a couple sides and I think he’s back on track,” said the manager.
Before the rough stretch, Fultz had pitched well and still owned impressive numbers through Saturday — 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 23 games. Lefties were hitting .125 (3-for-25) off him.
“He’s done the job we brought him into do,” Wedge said.
Back to Beantown
Trot Nixon will make his first trip to Boston as an opposing player when the Indians begin a three-game series at Fenway Park tonight.
“I’m just worried about today,” said Nixon, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 1993, spending his entire
13-year professional career in the organization before singing a free-agent contract with the Indians this offseason. “I’ll let (Monday) play out like it will. Obviously it’ll be exciting to be back there.”
It will be a return trip as well for Wedge, who spent the majority of his brief big league career with Boston.
Wedge is the co-owner of Strike One Sports Complex, an indoor sports facility on the north shore of Boston (Danvers, Mass.), featuring baseball, softball and basketball instruction. He will present a scholarship to the school in a ceremony prior to one of the games of the series.
Cleveland’s starting pitchers have begun taking batting practice in preparation for team’s first interleague series on the road at Cincinnati, June 8-10.
It is not Wedge’s favorite time.
“I hold my breath every time they take a swing,” he said.
Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.93) opens the series in Boston tonight at 7:05, opposing right-hander Curt Schilling (4-2, 3.94).
Jeremy Sowers (1-4, 6.29) and Paul Byrd (5-1, 3.81) are the scheduled starters Tuesday (7:05) and Wednesday (7:05), while the Red Sox counter with righty Josh Beckett (7-0, 2.66) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-2, 4.43).
The Indians (30-17) entered Sunday off to their best overall start since 2001, when they went 31-16 and on to their last postseason appearance.
l Grady Sizemore’s consecutive-games streak reached 244, the fifth-longest active streak in the majors and the longest by a Cleveland player since Toby Harrah played 473 straight from 1979-83.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.