Indians shut down White Sox; Carmona beats expectations

Andy Call

That sophomore slump Fausto Carmona was supposed to experience will apparently have to wait at least another five days.

Cleveland’s 24-year-old pitcher worked seven strong innings in his season debut Wednesday night as the Indians shut down Chicago, 7-2, at Progressive Field.

“It’s hard to tell from center field if he’s throwing a sinker,” Grady Sizemore said of Carmona. “It looks like a changeup, then you look up (at the pitch speed) and it’s 93 mph.”

Carmona baffled hitters with his sinking fastball, just as he had during his magical 2007 season. A relatively harmless Joe Crede RBI crawler up the middle in the fifth inning was the only run Carmona allowed.

The Dominican right-hander pitched without sleeves on a night when the game-time temperature was 34 degrees. The cold didn’t seem to bother him any more than the hatch of midges last October, when a bug-covered Carmona allowed the New York Yankees just one run over nine innings in Game 2 of the Division Series.

“I don’t like using long sleeves when I pitch,” Carmona said through interpreter and first base coach Luis Rivera. “Sometimes I didn’t have a good grip on the ball. It would slip out of my hand. But I had pretty good command of all my pitches.”

The Indians repeatedly tempered their expectations for Carmona during spring training, attempting to lower the pressure on a pitcher who was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in his first full year in the big leagues.

Wednesday night, however, Carmona looked an awful lot like the 2007 model.

The White Sox managed just four hits. Carmona struck out four and induced 16 ground-ball outs. Only one out was of the fly-ball variety. The first and second innings both ended via double-play ground balls.

“He was consistent with his rhythm and tempo, he slowed down when he needed to, and he made adjustments as the game went on,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said.

Chicago was one of the few teams that actually gave Carmona a hard time last summer. His ERA in three starts against the ChiSox was 6.23.

“(Sleeves) are a personal preference,” Wedge said. “I know I would have had sleeves on if I had been out there. But he’s tough. He’s proven it time and again, whether he’s on the upside or the flip side of things.”

The Indians finally broke open a 2-1 game after wearing down White Sox starter Javier Vazquez. He threw 103 pitches in five innings.

“We made (Vazquez) work and throw a lot of pitches,” Sizemore said.

Sizemore, whose two-run single had given Cleveland the early advantage, launched a triple over the head of right fielder Jermaine Dye with one out in the fifth. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI hit up the middle.

Franklin Gutierrez came up with the bases loaded, fought Vazquez to a 2-2 count, then watched the next two pitches miss outside and high. The bases-loaded walk widened the gap to 4-1.

Sizemore and Cabrera added run-scoring singles off Mike MacDougal in the sixth that made the score 6-1.

Masa Kobayashi made his major-league debut in the eighth, giving up singles to two of the three batters he faced. Rafael Perez walked the bases full, but struck out Dye to end the inning. Another newcomer, Jorge Julio, served up A.J. Pierzynski’s solo homer in the ninth.

The Indians also won the first two games of the season-opening series against Chicago last year. Cleveland hasn’t begun consecutive seasons 2-0 since 1954-55.

Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail