Indians send struggling Carmona to rookie-ball

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Fausto Carmona coughing up seven runs in two innings against the Twins
last night was apparently the final straw for the Indians, as they
dropped the struggling right-hander from the rotation and sent him to
the minors this afternoon.

Rather than simply option him to Triple-A, the Indians have decided
to send Carmona all the way down rookie-ball, although with the Arizona
League still a couple weeks from getting underway it looks like he’ll
basically just be at extended spring training for a while.

Clearly the Indians feel that his struggles go beyond simply
pitching poorly and extend to the erosion of his mechanics or mental
state. Or maybe both. While extreme, the move is not totally without
precedent. Roy Halladay and Dontrelle Willis are examples of big-name
pitchers who were sent to the low minors at the peak of their
struggles, with the demotion working wonders for Halladay and, so far
at least, doing little for Willis.

Carmona came out of nowhere to finish fourth in the Cy Young
balloting two years ago, using his power sinker to go 19-8 with a 3.06
ERA and 137/61 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. Since then he has a 6.10 ERA
and 94/111 K/BB ratio in 181 innings, including an MLB-worst 41 walks
in 61 frames this season. He’s still working at 92-94 miles per hour
and still getting tons of ground balls, but just can’t throw the ball
over the plate consistently (although he’s not in Rick Ankiel

As part of the contract extension that Carmona signed in April of
last year, the Indians owe him $4.9 million next season and $6.1
million in 2011, and then have $28 million worth of team options from
2012-2014. Locking players up before they hit arbitration is a strategy
that the Indians and other teams have used successfully over the years,
but Carmona is looking like an example of how it can backfire.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.