ANAHEIM -- After everything Roberto Hernandez went through over the past seven months to get back on a big league mound, he wasn't about to be rattled by defensive miscues behind him, a few pitches left up in the zone, or even a five-run inning. But Fausto Carmona might have been.
So while Hernandez's stuff resembled that of the pitcher he was when his jersey read Carmona, there was evidence of a slightly different man in the way he continued to battle through all those things and six tough innings in the Indians' 8-4 loss to the Angels on Wednesday night in his first start of 2012.
"I thought it was impressive the way he kept his composure throughout that whole inning and that whole game with the defense we played behind him," his manager, Manny Acta, said. "He's guy that in the past, in those situations, he'd start flying open, letting it fly, and making it worse. I thought he showed great composure today."
Hernandez was victimized by three errors, two from shortstop Brent Lillibridge, and a few other defensive miscues in a five-run Angels second that put the Indians in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
"We played terrible defense behind him, especially in that second inning," Acta said. "He threw two double-play balls, and we couldn't turn either of them. On one of them we didn't even get an out. ... I thought he deserved better."
That's not to say Hernandez was perfect, however. While three of the eight runs scored against him were unearned, he did concede 10 hits, including a home run apiece to Mike Trout and Chris Iannetta, in his six innings of work.
"It felt good. I was throwing every pitch, trying to make it go down and get ground balls," Hernandez said. "I left a little bit up, tried to throw a few strikes, left them up and they hit them. Sometimes, they hit them."
After that five-run second, the Angels added runs in the third, fourth and sixth and took an 8-1 lead to the eighth. It was then, after being befuddled by Ervin Santana and his slider to the tune of just one run and four hits in the first seven innings, that the Indians' bats finally came alive.
Jason Isringhausen relieved Santana, and gave up a leadoff single to Jack Hannahan. After an Ezequiel Carrera groundout, Isringhausen walked Jason Kipnis to put two men on. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, but Shin-Soo Choo picked him up with a three-run shot to pull Cleveland within four.
"It was a good offensive day for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We were able to absorb a rough inning for [Isringhausen] and came out on top."
Choo, in the center of that rough inning, was also in the middle of a memorable play in the fifth. After Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch, Kendrys Morales doubled to right, where Choo corralled the ball and fired it in. He over-threw his cutoff man, forcing third baseman Hannahan to field the ball and fire home.
As Hunter slid to evade catcher Carlos Santana's tag, one of his cleats flew up into the face of umpire Greg Gibson, who sustained a deep gash near his left eye. Gibson left the game, received stitches, and was taken to a hospital for precautionary X-rays.
"Every day you see something new in the game," Acta said.
Adding to the oddity was the fact that Gibson hadn't made a call before sustaining the injury, leaving Acta and Angels' manager Mike Scioscia waiting as patiently as to hear the verdict of crew chief Gerry Davis.
When he did, his out call gave the Indians one of few defensive plays to be proud of in the loss. Offensively, Cabrera was the only Cleveland player with two hits, and drove in the Indians' first run with an RBI double in the sixth.
But the story of the day was Hernandez, who despite his iffy final line, impressed his manager with the fact that what he brought to the rubber in his first start of the year was very close to what he brought to it in 2011.
"His velocity was where he was in the past, sitting at 91, ball sinking down at the knees, and once in a while he'll pop a 93," Acta said. "That's good enough, especially if you're throwing strikes. ... We didn't catch the ball for him, didn't help him at all."
"I was very very excited," Hernandez said. "I don't think about [the past year] before I pitch. ... I just go into the game and think about pitching.
"I'm really very happy to have a second chance to pitch in the big leagues. ... I was just thinking today's a new day. Throw a good pitch."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.