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
territory).

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.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.