Carrasco Running Out of Options
Mike Brandyberry | On 14, Apr 2014
It’s still early in the season, but for Carlos Carrasco it seems to be getting late quick.
After Friday’s start in Chicago, where he allowed five runs in four and two-third innings, Indians manager Terry Francona announced the next day that Carrasco would be moving to the bullpen, in the short term. The Indians have an off day today, allowing the Carrasco’s start to be skipped until Saturday. Francona was clear that Carrasco would make his scheduled start on Saturday, at home, against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Fifth starters are skipped in the rotation all the time. That’s nothing to raise an eyebrow about, however, for Carrasco, this isn’t the beginning of his struggles. Likely, it could be the beginning of the end. Carrasco has fought for a place in the Indians’ rotation dating back to 2011. He’s constantly worked through control problems, injuries and confidence issues. All the while, the Indians have stuck by Carrasco, his electric arm and potential always seeming to be close to putting it all together.
Carrasco didn’t exactly win the fifth starter’s spot out of spring training, either. It’s more like he survived it, or no one else took it from him. Carrasco’s out of minor league options. If he leaves the major league roster, he’ll have to clear waivers before returning the Triple-A. That potential is probably enough for another team to claim him and Carrasco to be lost to the Tribe. That fear, combined with neither Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin asserting themselves as the clear candidate, was enough for Carrasco to win the roster spot and more time to try and find himself with the Indians.
But after two subpar starts by Carrasco, the Indians are struggling. After 13 games, the team is 6-7 and fighting to find consistent, starting pitching from all five spots in the rotation. While the Indians want to keep Carrasco, he’s also the first of the five starters who could lose his spot in the rotation. Carrasco had success in the bullpen late last season going 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in eight games and 13.2 innings. He was able to rely more on his fastball and less on his secondary pitches. There’s no need to mix pitches as much when you only will face a hitter in a game once. Carrasco seemed to thrive in that spot last season.
Yet, the Indians and Francona seem insistent that Carrasco will remain in the rotation and this week’s bullpen demotion is just to add depth for the Detroit series. It sounds good, but the Tribe’s rotation has just five quality starts in 13 games. Carrasco has none and the need for bullpen depth is in part due to the poor outings starters continue to string together.
And while Francona insists Carrasco will start on Saturday, one has to wonder how many more starts he has left in him during his fourth season of chances to make the Indians’ rotation. One of those five quality starts came from Bauer in last Thursday’s second game of a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres. Bauer didn’t win the job in spring training, but continued to improve all spring long. He’s pitched well in his first start at Triple-A Columbus and his spot start with Cleveland. He seems like the logical replacement for Carrasco when the organization’s patience grows thin again with Carrasco.
What happens to Carrasco if he leaves the rotation remains a major question. The organization still clearly does not want to lose him through waivers. Heading to the bullpen long term is a possibility, but someone else would have to be jettisoned to Columbus to make room for him. After Friday’s game, Carrasco indicated that his velocity had dropped after two innings and he didn’t have an explanation as to why. Maybe it’s the ticket to the disabled list for another examination, followed by work on his mechanics and rehabilitation outings in the minor leagues. It seems Carrasco always has success in the minor leagues or when the pressure is off, though. Putting it all together seems to be the challenge he’s faced since his big league debut in 2011.
To make matters worse, Carrasco remains the only link left in the organization to the failed Cliff Lee trade with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. Lee was the second straight Cy Young Award winner to be dealt in as many years by the Tribe. Cleveland looks to have found nothing to help them long term from the Lee deal, with just Michael Brantley in swap for C.C. Sabathia. Giving Carrasco one too many chances in hopes he becomes a viable option for the present and future is likely no accident with him tied to the Lee trade.
But the Lee trade was deemed a failure some time ago and presently, the Indians need consistent starting pitching in their rotation that Carrasco is not demonstrating. Cleveland may be forced to make a tough decision concerning Carrasco as soon as this week.
At this point, what option do they have?
Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images