GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The biggest question mark in the Indians' rotation has been an exclamation point in spring camp. Fausto Carmona's stellar Cactus League showing continued on Saturday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark, where he limited a D-backs lineup loaded with left-handed hitters to just three hits with three strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in the Tribe's 2-0 win. Carmona is now 3-0 with a sparkling 0.45 ERA in 20 innings over four spring appearances. Questions about his ability to reach his 19-win form of 2007 will last until he takes that kind of performance into the regular season, but he is beginning to silence the doubters.
"It takes a lot of negative thoughts out of a lot of people's heads," manager Manny Acta said. Acta has preached both positivity and pounding the strike zone this spring. The former was no concern for the always-upbeat Carmona, but the latter was certainly an issue the past two seasons. Carmona walked 70 batters in 120 2/3 innings in 2008 and another 70 in 125 1/3 innings last season. This spring, Carmona has walked just two guys. And the few times he fell behind in the count on Saturday (he only got to 3-0 once), he was able to get the D-backs to put the ball on the ground. Of the 21 outs he induced, 12 came on grounders. "He's learning he has the stuff to get behind and still get guys out," said Mike Redmond, who will serve as Carmona's personal catcher this season. "He doesn't have to be perfect." What made Saturday's outing so impressive was Carmona's ability to tame the lefties. The D-backs had seven of them in the lineup, and they went 2-for-16 off him.
"I threw a lot of four-seamers in [to left-handers]," Carmona said. "I didn't throw too many sinkers today."In an effort to improve his performance against lefties, Carmona moved to the first-base side of the rubber during his stint playing Dominican winter ball this past offseason. He's approaching those hitters from a different angle, and in this outing it worked in his favor. "Today was a great test for him," Redmond said. "Because when he goes against the Twins and White Sox, they'll be able to stack their lefties against him." Carmona needed just 70 pitches to get through the seven innings in a game that lasted less than two hours. He had to go to the bullpen to throw another 15 pitches and reach his pitch count for the day. With just one more spring start remaining -- he'll get the nod on Thursday night in Dodger Stadium -- Carmona is looking ready to redeem himself after his humbling demotion to the lowest level of the Minors last year. Can he once again become the Carmona of 2007? "I want to be," he said. "But I don't think about that. Just throw strikes."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.