BOSTON — Those who claim to have predicted Fausto Carmona would be one of the most dominating starting pitchers in baseball this year are lying. After watching Carmona’s season on the brink as the Indians closer in 2006, no one could have guessed as much.
“I think it’s part of who he is,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “I’m a big believer that anything you experience in and out of the game is a big part of who you are today. I mean, you talk about a tough young man that understands what he has experienced and how to be a better baseball player for it, Fausto is a great example of that.”
“From the stretch I went through last year as a closer, I learned a lot,” Carmona said through an interpreter. “I don’t regret what I went through because it makes me stronger. I feel like (this year) was a new start for me, and I was going to take the opportunity and do the most with it.”
Carmona wasn’t even expected to break camp with the big league club, but got his chance when Cliff Lee opened the season on the disabled list. He ran with it, going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and posting the lowest ERA of any starter in the majors after the All-Star break.
Now he’s starting Game 2 of the American League Championship Series tonight against playoff warrior Curt Schilling, who was asked Friday what he knew about the Dominican right-hander.
“I know enough to know I’d rather be facing somebody else,” Schilling said. “This kid is something else. I’ve watched him a couple times in games against us and I’ve seen him on TV a couple other times.
“The game he threw against New York (in Game 2 of the ALDS) was just a dominating, dominating outing. He’s as good as anybody I’ve seen this year.”
Though older, Schilling is no slouch, either. He owns a career 9-2 record in the playoffs and is capable of producing special performances, such as he did during Boston’s march to the World Series title in 2004.
“He’s throwing the ball exactly where he wants to,” Wedge said of the 40-year-old right-hander, who was limited to 24 regular-season starts
(9-8, 3.48 ERA) and threw seven shutout innings against the Angels in the ALDS. “He’s obviously a great competitor.”
“I don’t think Schilling is going to be the underdog. I don’t believe that,” Carmona said.
At one time, Schilling could match Carmona in the power department, but now relies on finesse. There’s no hiding what Carmona brings to the mound: a devastating sinker that few teams have been able to master.
“I don’t think it’s any secret, if you chase balls out of the zone on Carmona down, it’ll be too quick of a night,” Francona said. “We need to bring him up and get pitches to hit.”
Here’s what Schilling had to say about the Indians on Friday:
“This is a very underrated team,” he said. “You look at what people say about this series, and I don’t feel like it’s even remotely the advantage that people think we have.
“I think they’re a much better team than people are giving them credit for, especially with (C.C. Sabathia and Carmona) going on the mound the next two days.”
The Indians made no changes to their postseason roster, with the same 25 players representing Cleveland that did against the Yankees in the Division Series.
That means Aaron Laffey will remain the team’s long reliever over Cliff Lee, while Josh Barfield will still serve as a pinch runner over Ben Francisco.
“It’s the best way to go,” Wedge said.
On a roll
Since losing to Detroit on Aug. 21, the Indians are 31-12, which includes their 3-2 record in the postseason.
Cleveland won nine of its last 13 regular-season games, beginning with a sweep of the Tigers, which all but wrapped up the Central Division title.
Manny being Manny
Francona sees a different side of Manny Ramirez than the left fielder has shown to the media during his playing days in Boston and Cleveland.
“If Manny wanted you to know about Manny, he would probably tell you,” Francona said. “He’s a really good kid, probably a lot more approachable, a lot more likable than he comes across to the media.”
Ramirez and former Indians teammate Kenny Lofton are making their fourth appearances in the ALCS, the only position players on either team to do so. The pair played together in Cleveland during the 1995 and ’98 ALCS.
• Boston fan Danny Vinik, the kid who interfered with Angels catcher Jeff Mathis to snare a pivotal foul ball in the stands during Game 2 of the ALDS, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday. The Indians have already lined up the ceremonial first pitchers for the scheduled games at Jacobs Field. They are television personality Al Roker (Game 3), Youngstown boxer Kelly Pavlik (Game 4) and figure skating legend Scott Hamilton (Game 5).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.