Cleveland Indians fans have seen this before. This time, they are hoping with much better results. Last year in the spring starter, Carlos Carrasco was lights out for the Tribe, earning without a doubt a shot to break camp with the big league club as the teams fifth starter.
The problem was, he was set to serve a six-game suspension for a 2011 incident in which he hit Kevin Youkilis of the New York Yankees following a home run by Robinson Cano. Once the suspension was served, Carrasco simply didn’t look like the same pitcher that was so very good in the spring, and he struggled badly as a starter, going 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven starts.
Overall, he made five trips to Cleveland last season, going back and forth between the Tribe and the teams AAA club in Columbus. Finally, manager Terry Francona made the call that Carrasco would pitch out of the bullpen, and he threw well, not allowing a run in his first five outings, and ended up going 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in eight outings in the pen, helping the Indians’ stretch run to a Wild Card playoff spot.
This spring, it came down to Carrasco and Josh Tomlin for the final spot in the rotation, and despite Tomlin having better numbers, Francona and GM Chris Antonetti made the decision to go with Carrasco, maybe sending a message to the 27 year old that it’s simply ‘now or never’ for the former top pitching prospect. Always seeming to find a way to mentally not have it to be a solid starter in the Majors, Carrasco said this offseason and spring that it was something he focused on. “Before I was like 50 [percent] mental and 50 [percent] pitching,” Carrasco told Ohio.com. “Now, I see how much more important my mental approach is.”
Tommy John surgery in 2011, along with issues staying on the field with a pair of suspensions in 2013, are reasons why many people are still not sold on Carrasco as the long-term answer in the final starter spot for the Indians. Plus, knowing Tomlin is a phone call away in Columbus could mean problems for Carrasco, who was the pitching centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
On the other hand, maybe the surgery, the suspensions, and the mental struggles will finally all fade away for Carrasco, and he will finally live up to the potential the Indians have been talking about the last three seasons. “I want to show everyone I’m different,” Carrasco said. “I’ve been competing for a starting spot for four years. Last year was hard, just coming back from Tommy John [elbow ligament replacement surgery]. Now, I just feel it’s a new year and I feel different. I’m healthy. And with my new mechanics, I’m confident.”
He will have his chance this season, starting with the fifth game of the season. Francona has stated more than once that he loves Carrasco’s stuff and feels that he can have great success as a starter. It’s now up to the Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela native prove he can do it, or it very well may be the end of the road for Carrasco in Cleveland.