Carmona called to Midsummer Classic

Carmona called to Midsummer Classic

CLEVELAND -- A year ago at this time, Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona was in the Minors, trying to reignite a lost career after a humbling demotion to the rookie-level Arizona League.

On Sunday, Carmona's career resurgence was illustrated when his name was called on the MLB All-Star Selection Show. Carmona will be an option out of the American League bullpen in his first trip to the Midsummer Classic, which takes place July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher informed Carmona of his selection shortly before he took the mound against the A's. They weren't thrilled about pulling him out of his pregame focus, but they were happy to give him the news.

Was Carmona happy?

"It's kind of hard to tell with him sometimes," Belcher said with a smile. "But I think he was."

Carmona, who was selected to the AL team by Yankees manager Joe Girardi, is the only Tribe player headed to the All-Star Game. It's the second consecutive year the Tribe will send just one representative.

He didn't have much to say about the All-Star nod. Carmona, after all, had just been beaten by the A's, despite tossing a quality start in the 3-1 loss.

"I'm very happy, I feel good," said Carmona, who allowed three runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts in seven innings against the A's. "I was focused on helping the team win."

Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is batting .286 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs, seemed the most obvious choice to represent the Indians. But Choo suffered a right thumb injury diving for a line drive in Friday night's loss to the A's and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks, as the injury might require surgery.

Choo's loss is Carmona's gain, though Carmona had done enough to be considered on his own, particularly with the AL and NL teams in need of pitching depth, as new rules will prevent those who start the Sunday before the All-Star Game from pitching in the exhibition.

In 17 starts, including Sunday's loss to the A's, the Dominican native is 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA. He has struck out 57 and walked 39 in 109 2/3 innings pitched.

The won-loss ledger is rather pedestrian. But as Belcher noted, it's a bit deceiving, too.

"He's 7-7 now," Belcher said. "That doesn't sound all that impressive. But after today, that's now four losses with a quality start, and he's had three no-decisions with quality starts. He could very easily have as many as 13 wins and, quite conservatively, could have 10 or 11."

Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET.   ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage.  MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Not all that long ago, the 26-year-old Carmona was one of the more dominant arms in the game. In 2007, his first full season as a Major League starter, he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 starts. He finished fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting and was a vital piece of a Tribe team that fell a win shy of the World Series.

But that 2007 success gave way to inglorious 2008 and '09 seasons for Carmona. In '08, Carmona went 8-7 with a 5.44 ERA in 22 starts and missed time with a left hip strain. In '09, he went 5-12 with a 6.32 ERA in 24 starts.

Control problems plagued Carmona, who walked 70 guys each in '08 and '09. The issue became such a predicament that the Indians took the bold step of sending Carmona all the way down to the rookie level last June so that he could report to the club's Player Development Complex in Goodyear, Ariz., and tweak his mind and mechanics. Carmona also pitched in the Dominican Winter League after the season to keep the work going.

"It was a process," he said. "I worked hard. I worked on my mechanics and throwing strikes."

When Carmona reported to spring camp this year, he moved to the first-base side of the rubber and showed improved command and confidence. The Indians slated him into the No. 2 spot of the rotation. He has rewarded their confidence, and the rebuilding Indians hope to build their rotation around him going forward.

"I'm very excited for Fausto," Acta said. "I think it's been a tremendous turnaround. At the beginning of Spring Training, we asked him to be a better Fausto than the one in 2008 and 2009. We weren't looking for the one from 2007. He's responded very well, and he deserves all the credit. He's given us an opportunity to win every five days. He's had a lack of run support at times, but he's gone about his business the best way possible. I'm thrilled that he could go from the years he had in 2008 and 2009 to being an All-Star for us."

Carmona entered Sunday tied for first in the league in groundball double plays induced. He has forced the opposition to ground into 17 of them this season. His 0.58 homers allowed per nine innings is also among the league leaders. Carmona has notched two complete games and has gone at least six innings in all but two of his 17 starts.

What's the difference for Carmona this season?

"His consistent ability to throw it over the plate and sink the ball to the bottom of the zone more often and sink the ball off the plate," Belcher said. "He's challenging the hitter in the strike zone more, particularly lefties. He had a great spring and, confidence-wise, was running high from day one. It snowballed for him in a good way, whereas the last couple years snowballed for him in a bad way."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.