Indians, Carmona agree to contract extension

Andy Call

Much of Fausto Carmona’s physical activity as a teenager in a small town in the Dominican Republic consisted of running up the hills where his family grew rice — when he wasn’t stretching to pick fruit off the orange trees.

Even on that family farm, however, Carmona found some idle time. Most of that time was devoted to playing baseball with his friends or watching his favorite major-league pitcher, Pedro Martinez, on TV.

After Carmona became a professional baseball player, he began saving for a new house for his parents. That home is nearly finished, but now he can afford an addition. A couple of them, actually.

The 24-year-old right-hander signed a four-year, $15-million contract with the Indians on Thursday, one that could pay him up to $48 million if Cleveland exercises all three one-year club options and escalator clauses based on Cy Young Award balloting kick in.

“I’ve got a little security,” Carmona said through interpreter and first-base coach Luis Rivera. “That doesn’t mean I’m not going to work hard.”

Carmona’s work ethic was one reason the Indians decided to offer the extension despite his having spent only one full year in the big leagues. The Indians had him under control for four more years anyway, but effectively bought out two of Carmona’s free-agent seasons.

“You look at what makes him special and why you bet on a guy like that for a long period of time,” General Manager Mark Shapiro said. “His alignment of toughness and competitiveness is exactly what you’re looking for.”

Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 2007, the second-lowest ERA in the American League. Only two AL starters allowed a lower slugging percentage (.352). He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.

Perhaps Carmona’s short career can best be defined by two challenges he faced and passed. A 10-day tryout as the Indians’ closer in 2006 proved nothing short of disastrous. Carmona was sent back to the minor leagues, returned as a starter, then went on to earn a spot in the starting pitching rotation of a division champion.

“In our conversations with him, never once did he show it was beating him down,” Shapiro said. “When we were worried about him, he wasn’t worried about himself.”

Then, last October, Carmona refused to be shaken when a swarm of midges descended on him during Game 2 of the American League Division Series. While New York rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain came unglued, Carmona was shutting down the Yankees for nine innings.

“I needed to be focused,” Carmona said. “Nothing would have bothered me. I saw them. I felt them. But that wasn’t going to be enough to take me off my game.”

Assistant General Manager Chris Antonetti said the sides agreed to terms just before Carmona’s first start of the season (April 3), but needed an additional week to iron out the details.

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

A’s vs. Indians preview capsule

SCHEDULE: Today, 7:05 p.m.; Saturday, 7:05 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

PROBABLE PITCHERS: Today, LHP C.C. Sabathia (0-1, 7.59) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (0-2, 3.44); Saturday, RHP Fausto Carmona (1-0, 0.69) vs. RHP Rich Harden (1-0, 0.82); Sunday, LHP Cliff Lee (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Chad Gaudin (first start).

NOTABLE: C.C. Sabathia hopes to have better luck against the A’s in Cleveland than he does in Oakland. He is 1-4 with a 7.11 ERA in eight career starts against Oakland at McAfee Coliseum, but 1-2, 4.50 against the A’s at Progressive Field. ... The A’s took 2 of 3 from the Indians last weekend. Oakland starters Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland and Joe Blanton had a combined 1.93 ERA in that series as the Indians batted .204 (20-for-98) over those three games. ... Oakland DH Mike Sweeney is a career .309/.379/.517 hitter against Cleveland with 24 home runs and 92 RBIs in 472 at-bats. ... The Indians haven’t lost a home series since being swept by New York last Aug. 10-12.

UP NEXT: Boston at Cleveland, Monday and Tuesday.