MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Fausto Carmona is in control — something he hadn't been able to say for almost three years.
After going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 2007, when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting and helped the Cleveland Indians win the AL Central, Carmona had trouble throwing strikes. He averaged more than five walks per nine innings the next two years and went 13-19 with a 5.89 ERA for disappointing teams.
This spring, Carmona has walked only two batters in 13 innings while posting a 0.69 ERA. The big right-hander, who got in better shape over the winter and adjusted his mechanics on the mound, was especially dominant Monday, pitching six shutout innings in a 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
"Impressive," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "It's the best spring training start I've seen. He made it look easy."
Carmona, who was so wild last season that the Indians demoted him to rookie ball in June, spent Monday sawing off bats with hard, sinking fastballs — just as he did in 2007.
"He had more and more confidence each inning," Cleveland catcher Mike Redmond said. "The last two innings were phenomenal. It was strike one, strike two, strike three. Nasty.
"(Chicago batters) couldn't take pitches. He was pounding the strike zone. That's what we talked about all spring: 'Stay in control and pound the zone.'"
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija wasn't nearly as sharp, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks in four innings. It was his final outing before Piniella announces his season-opening rotation on Friday.
Samardzija is competing with Carlos Silva for a spot, but Silva has been better, meaning Samardzija could be headed to the bullpen. Silva, who left Sunday's start after two innings with a tight right quad, said Monday that he felt fine.
Asked if his outstanding performance as a rookie reliever during the 2008 pennant race actually could work against him as Piniella makes rotation and bullpen decisions, Samardzija laughed and said: "Yeah, but I was (bad) last year."
"What I want to do is start, but we'll just see how it turns out," he said. "Everybody just wants to help this team win. There are a lot of big situations in the 'pen, too."
Samardzija's teammates offered little help Monday. After Austin Kearns led off the second inning with a double, first baseman Derrek Lee fielded Redmond's grounder and threw late to third rather than take the sure out at first. Jose Constanza then hit an apparent double-play grounder, but second baseman Bobby Scales' relay throw was high.
In the fifth, third baseman Jeff Baker made an error and Scales couldn't catch Constanza's pop-up, leading to two unearned runs off John Grabow. Mike Parisi gave up four eighth-inning runs on a hit, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. Meanwhile, the Cubs were blanked on three hits through eight.
"One of our worst games of the spring," Piniella said. "We looked sort of dead."
Cleveland pitching had something to do with that. Paced by Carmona, the Indians lead all AL teams with a 3.38 ERA.
NOTES: Cubs LHP Ted Lilly said his surgically repaired left shoulder felt great after he pitched three innings in a simulated game Monday. Lilly, who will start the season on the DL, wants to work two spring games but Piniella is preaching patience. "If you ask him now, he thinks he can be the opening-day pitcher," the manager said. "Let's be realistic. We don't want to push him. There's time." ... Indians OF Michael Brantley, who left Sunday's game with a sore right ankle, "is just fine," manager Manny Acta said. ... With Chris Perez taking over for injured closer Kerry Wood, Cleveland's other bullpen jobs — including the setup role Perez vacated — are up for grabs. "Guys dictate their own roles," Acta said. "I'll take seven Mariano Riveras." ... Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez (sore right triceps) has been throwing daily and "will be ready to play soon," Piniella said.