ANAHEIM -- The Indians are replacing their No. 1 starter with their old No. 2. Cliff Lee's move to Philadelphia opens the door for Fausto Carmona's return to the big leagues.
The Indians made the bold move of optioning Carmona, their former 19-game winner, to the rookie-level Arizona League on June 5. Two months, four Minor League stops and hours of fine-tuning later, Carmona is coming back.
Carmona will slot into the rotation Friday against the Tigers, bumping Jeremy Sowers back a day.
The Indians feel their reclamation project can translate to the Major League level.
"He's done everything we've asked him to do and is showing consistency with it," farm director Ross Atkins said of Carmona.
The Indians had planned on giving Carmona at least one more start with Triple-A Columbus before recalling him. Wednesday's Lee trade changed that.
Carmona was 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 41 walks over 60 2/3 innings in 12 starts for an Indians team that was counting on him to be a key figure in the rotation after a disappointing 2008. In seven starts in the Minors, Carmona went 3-3 with a 2.72 ERA, 39 strikeouts and seven walks over 46 1/3 innings.
With Columbus, Carmona was 1-3 with a 3.55 ERA in five starts. He walked six and struck out 27 over 33 innings, with five homers allowed.
Atkins summed up the Minors experiment.
"What it comes down to with Fausto is not only repeating the things and having the things we're asking him to do, but staying on line with his delivery," Atkins said. "He had to command the fastball to the opposite-arm side and tone down the velocity on his changeup. All of this is one core adjustment, which is his delivery, by getting him more on line and creeping his arm slot a little higher. Once he gets wide open like he was, he lost the ability to command those pitches. The Minors allows us to really ingrain those adjustments."
Carmona's emotions get him in trouble, as stressful situations would cause him to get out of whack with his delivery. The call up to the Majors means Carmona will be in more meaningful situations, but the Indians hope his work with mental skills coordinator Julio Rangel will help him in that regard.
"All in all we feel over the top, incredibly positive about [the Minors project]," Atkins said. "But the hardest aspect of the entire project will be that first Major League start and [seeing] how the info and adjustments transition."
We'll see soon.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.