Workloads Tire Indians' Starters
Sunday, October 21, 2007
BOSTON, Oct. 20 -- C.C. Sabathia, the Cleveland Indians' ace left-hander, has thrown 256 1/3 innings this year, regular season and postseason combined -- or 46 1/3 more innings than his previous high, in 2002. Similarly, Fausto Carmona, their right-handed co-ace, is at 230 innings following his abbreviated, two-inning start Saturday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Last year, as a rookie reliever, Carmona threw only 74 2/3 innings.
With Sabathia having struggled through three below-average starts this postseason, and with Carmona having endured two consecutive beatings at the hands of the Red Sox, questions have been raised as to whether the significant increases in their workloads, relative to previous seasons, has been a factor -- particularly in the case of Sabathia.
"I don't know how to answer that," Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said in response to a question about Sabathia, whose ERA was 3.21 during the regular season, but is 8.81 in October. "I think only C.C. knows that. He has thrown the ball hard. He's strong. There's no drop-off in the action to his pitches at all. There's nothing that I see that leads me to believe he's fatigued."
Before his most recent start, a losing effort in Game 5, Sabathia played down speculation about whether he has run out of gas.
"I don't feel any different in my arm," he said. "I feel fine. I don't feel like I've thrown a lot of innings. . . . I really can't point to that and say that's the reason I haven't been good."
Indians pitching coach Carl Willis noted that Sabathia's velocity remains in the 94-98 mph range, which suggests his arm is fine. "When you go through a down period, and it happens in the postseason," Willis said, "you open yourself up to a lot of questions. If this had been happening in June, probably not as much attention [would be] given to it."
Of equal if not greater concern is the ability of Sabathia and Carmona to sustain their success. Historically, young pitchers who achieve career-high innings totals and pitch deep into October often regress the following year. Examples include Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland of the Chicago White Sox, Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman and the Angels' Jarrod Washburn.
Three Indians, including reliever Jensen Lewis, spent much of Saturday afternoon gathered around a laptop at the team hotel, "watching" an Internet gamecast of Vanderbilt's 17-6 upset of No. 6-ranked South Carolina.
Lewis is a Vanderbilt alum -- as are lefty Jeremy Sowers, who is not on the postseason roster, and minor leaguer David Wallace, who is serving as a bullpen catcher.
"We were going nuts and high-fiving each other," Lewis said. "It was awesome."
Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin attended Game 6 as a guest of Lewis's.
Ellsbury Gets the Call
Red Sox Manager Terry Francona finally made the move for which all of New England was crying earlier in the week: He inserted rookie outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury into the lineup and benched regular center fielder Coco Crisp, who was just 3 for 21 (.143) in the ALCS.
"He's not up here for the ride," Francona said of Ellsbury. "He's up here to win. When you get a young player like that, that's pretty special."
Ellsbury, whose name was cheered more loudly than any other when the lineups were read over the public address system, responded with an RBI single that sparked the Red Sox' six-run third inning. He later scored from first on Julio Lugo's double, part of a 1-for-5 night.
Francona said he thought of inserting the left-handed hitting Ellsbury in Game 5, but resisted because the Indians started lefty Sabathia. Ellsbury, who hit .353 in 33 regular season games, had only one previous at-bat in the postseason, grounding into a double play in Game 3 of the division series sweep of Los Angeles.
"I feel ready," Ellsbury said. "The days we don't play, I take batting practice like everybody else. . . . I've just been preparing like everyone else. I'm anxious. There's nerves. But I think that's good."
Francona said "there was some temptation" to bench Lugo, who entered Game 6 just 3 for 18 (.167) in the ALCS. But the only alternative was Alex Cora, who has appeared in only two innings on defense in the postseason.