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Carrasco Rewarding Indians’ Faith With Recent Success

Carrasco Rewarding Indians’ Faith With Recent Success

| On 04, Jun 2015

The Cleveland Indians took a pretty big leap of Faith on April 5 when the team inked No. 2 starter Carlos Carrasco to a long-term contract. Over his last few starts, the veteran right-hander has started to show that the money may well have been worth it.

Some wondered if the Tribe was making the right move in giving Carrasco a guaranteed $22 million through 2018, with team option years in 2019 and 2020 worth $18.5 million total if exercised.

In a market the size of Cleveland, where paying free agents with a good track record is hard to do, locking up promising, young core players is essential. The Indians have identified a number of such players and have a good core locked in for the next 3-5 years.

The Tribe extended it ace, Corey Kluber, after last year’s Cy Young campaign. That was something of a no-brainer. Carrasco, however, presented more of a challenge. Over the last two months of the 2014 campaign, Carrasco was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Prior to that, though, is a totally different story of getting roughed up and having a bad temper.

Cleveland looked at last August and September, in which Carrasco had an astounding 1.30 ERA over 10 starts, and determined the pitcher had finally turned the corner and finally living up to the great talent he possesses.

There were skeptics who felt the Indians should have perhaps waited for a handful of starts this season before extending Carrasco. Afterall, this was a guy who could not get anyone out to start the 2014 campaign. He had twice thrown at batters in the 2011 season, Had Tommy John surgery that wiped out 2012 and looked lost upon his return in 2013. It took a midseason move to the bullpen last year to get Carrasco pitching like the player the Indians had hoped to be receiving as part of the 2009 trade with Philadelphia that sent 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies.

Cleveland management did not want to wait. The irons were hot on extending a player who the organization had finger-printed as a building block in the rotation to pair with Kluber for the next half a decade. The risk with waiting was that if Carrasco pitched lights out in April, the asking price of the player and his agent could have gone higher than the small-market Tribe could go.

In April, it seemed Cleveland may have struck a little too soon. Of course, some bad luck was involved. After an impressive first outing, Carrasco took a line drive to the face in his second start against the White Sox. Amazingly, he never went to the disabled list and had his next appearance pushed back just one day. However, Carrasco did not look as dominant upon his return. Perhaps it was a little bit of shell shock from getting nailed by a batted ball. Whatever it was, the April numbers were not pretty. Just as the rest of the team struggled in the season’s first month, so to did Carrasco. He was 2-2 with a 4.60 ERA.

The beginning of May saw Carrasco have some up and down performances. He bottomed out on May 17, allowing five earned runs in start against the Texas Rangers. After that loss, he stood at 404 with a 4.98 ERA and looked nothing like the No. 2 starter he was pegged to be.

After that game against the Rangers, however, it was as if a light seemed to go off and the pitcher of 2014 returned. Carrasco has been back in rare form over his past three outings. In those starts, he has gone 3-0, allowing just four earned runs in 21 innings. He has lowered his ERA to 3.92 and is now 7-4 in 11 starts.

Carrasco came up huge on Tuesday in a big game against division rival Kansas City. With the Royals Jeremy Guthrie pitching lights out, Carrasco was up to the task of matching him, allowing one run in eight frames as the Indians won 2-1.

The Indians have been on a role since the middle of May, winning 11 of 14 games, heading into Wednesday night’s game, to get back to 24-25 and get back into viable contention for the American League Wild Card and AL Central Division. A big reason is the starting pitching and Carrasco has been at the heart of that.

Since mid May, Carrasco and Kluber have been just the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation the Indians had hoped for. Now the hope is the run of success will continue. Unlike after last season’s stretch of good pitching, there is definite reason to hope now. Carrasco actually has a track record of success at this point. He has sandwiched good runs around a small bad stretch. Dating back to last August, and 21 starts, Carrasco has been solid in the majority of them This is no longer a small sample size.

It would appear the Indians were smart to lock up carrasco when they did. The right hander is rewarding them in pitching like a top-of-the-rotation guy now. With the rest of the young pitchers also rounding into form, Cleveland’s rotation is taking off like it did a year ago. Carrasco is a big part of the turnaround now and may very well be a big factor in many future successes for the Tribe.

Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press