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Is It Carrasco’s Time to Shine?

Is It Carrasco’s Time to Shine?

| On 27, Feb 2014

The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ players who is in need of a bounce back season after a poor 2013.

No one is holding Carlos Carrasco to the expectations he came to Cleveland with when he was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade. But after battling back from Tommy John elbow surgery and the fifth and final rotation spot wide open, many believe it is the 26-year-old right-hander’s time to shine.

Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 2003 at age 16, Carrasco quickly became one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire system. Entering the 2007 season, Carrasco was ranked as the top prospect in the Phillies organization and the 41st best prospect in baseball. With what was touted as the best fastball and changeup in the entire organization, Carrasco threw his first no-hitter for the Double-A Reading Phillies on August 21, 2007 at age 20.

Carrasco joined the Cleveland Indians on July 29, 2009 when the Phillies traded Carrasco, along with Jason DonaldLou Marson, and Jason Knapp to the Cleveland Indians for Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco.

That season, Carrasco split time between Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland. In five starts with Cleveland, he was 0-4 with a 8.87 ERA. In six starts with Columbus, he was 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA.

Carrasco spent most of the 2010 season in Columbus where he pitched very well. In 25 starts, he posted a 10-6 record with a 3.65 ERA and 133 strikeouts. Success in Columbus led to a promotion and his first major league start on September 6, 2010 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Carrasco went on to post a 2-2 record and 3.83 ERA in seven starts with the Tribe.

In 2011, Carrasco won a spot in the rotation and held his own for most of the season. Through his first 15 starts, the right-hander posted a 8-4 record and 3.54 ERA. But things fell apart fast. Carrasco went winless in his last six starts, which included an ejection for throwing at Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler after he gave up a grand slam to Melky Cabrera. Carrasco was suspended for six games. Shortly after, the team announced the right-hander would undergo Tommy John elbow surgery.

After sitting out the 2012 season, Carrasco returned to the mound on April 9, 2013 against the New York Yankees, and picked up right where he left off. In the fourth inning, Carrasco was ejected after hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch immediately following a Robinson Cano home run. Major League Baseball slapped Carrasco with an eight game suspension.

The right-hander served his suspension and went on to post a 1-4 record and 6.75 ERA in 15 appearances for the Indians in 2013. Hidden within that losing record and staggering ERA was a sign of improvement. A confidence builder. In 13 2/3 innings as a reliever, Carrasco had a 1.32 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP.

Can Carrasco build off this?

With Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir gone, many in Cleveland including manager Terry Francona believe it’s Carrasco’s time to shine.

“I think he looks very strong. I like his delivery adjustments,” Francona said. “It’s now just a matter of him settling in and taking what he has and taking it into competition. He is ready to pitch and do well. His body is strong and throwing hard. He’s got tall his pitches now. He just has to go and compete.”

Carrasco has a strong chance of winning the 5th spot in the rotation. Josh TomlinTrevor BauerAaron Harang, and Shaun Marcum are also in the mix. Out of minor league options, if Carrasco doesn’t win a spot he will be moved to the bullpen and fill one of the two openings there. While the fifth and final spot is uncertain at the moment, Carrasco could greatly impact the rotation as much as anyone.

Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer