CLEVELAND -- The pregame buzz surrounding Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona's return from the disabled list seemed to be sapped once the news broke early Saturday that veteran Casey Blake had been traded to the Dodgers. Carmona, amped as ever to make his first start in more than two months, did his best to bring that attention back Saturday night. Only problem was the excitement didn't translate into anything close to what he or the Indians would have liked. The 24-year-old struggled early, was hit early and departed early after allowing nine quick runs to the Twins in the Tribe's 11-4 loss before 35,390 fans at Progressive Field.
Manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis knew how anxious Carmona was to get back on the mound since straining his hip in a May 23 start against the Rangers, acknowledging it would be something they would look out for and try to prevent. But they could only watch from the dugout as it unfolded right in front of their eyes a few minutes after the national anthem. "He had trouble gearing it down a little bit," Wedge said. "He was really rushing out there in that first inning." Plagued by control issues throughout the early portion of the season, Carmona didn't walk anybody in two rehab assignments, albeit against Minor League hitting. After four Twins left-handers stepped to the plate Saturday night, he loaded the bases with three -- the result, perhaps, of a little too much adrenaline behind his pitches. "I think that one leads to the other," Wedge said. "When you're rushing out and not standing over the rubber, your arm doesn't catch up. That's why you saw him missing away so much to those left-handers." When Carmona didn't miss, he was promptly punished. Jason Kubel and Delmon Young rapped back-to-back singles for a quick three-run advantage. With two outs, Carmona made his biggest mistake of the night, hanging a changeup to Brian Buscher, who crushed it to center field for a three-run homer to cap the six-run first inning. "I felt like I was a little on edge," Carmona said through first-base coach Luis Rivera. "I felt like I was off with my pitches." Carmona showed some promise, though, in what became his worst outing of the season. He put down the Twins in order in the second inning with just 14 pitches. "He was standing over the rubber better, his arm was working better with less effort and he was commanding the ball better," Wedge said. "But then he got away from it again in the next inning." Indeed he did. Five batters and four hits later, the Tribe was down, 9-0, and Carmona was out after 2 1/3 innings and 69 pitches. Wedge said he wouldn't bother looking back at what Carmona did wrong Saturday night. He knew exactly what the problems were. Instead, he and Willis will focus on what Carmona did right in the second inning, a flashback of sorts to the dominant pitcher that baffled hitters with a nearly unhittable sinker last season. "Ultimately," Wedge said, "that's where he needs to be." The last place the Indians' on-again, off-again offense needed to be was in a nine-run hole before its first time through the lineup. The hole, of course, was far too deep for the Tribe offense on this night, rendering Andy Marte's fifth-inning solo homer, Jhonny Peralta's two-run single in the sixth and Kelly Shoppach's RBI single in the eighth as mere stat boosters. For Wedge, though, Marte's home run to the opposite field meant much more. Now an everyday staple in the Tribe's lineup with the departure of Blake, Marte will finally get every opportunity to prove whether or not he is worthy to be deemed the Indians' third baseman of the future. "It's always good to see a young hitter drive the ball the other way like that," Wedge said. "It's something that Andy should be able to work off of." That's the same type of logic Wedge hopes will apply to the rude awakening Carmona received in his first game back from the DL. "When you talk about Fausto, you know he's going to be better the next time and you know he's going to figure it out," Wedge said. "He's done it too many times."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.