Carrasco Is Tribe’s Enigma

One of the regular debates surrounding the Cleveland Indians is what to do with Carlos Carrasco. Is he a starter or is he better suited for the bullpen?

One thing that no one doubts is the right-hander’s arm. He has outstanding stuff, getting his fastball to the plate around 95 MPH and he has a fine slider as well.

However, that stuff hasn’t translated to success at the big league level.

Carrasco was out of options at the beginning of the season, so the organization had to bring him north or risk losing him to another team. And again, with that arm, there really was no choice.

When there was debate about keeping the guy who is the last link of the Cliff Lee deal or keeping Josh Tomlin instead, the argument is simple: Tomlin is at best a back of the rotation pitcher, while Carrasco could be a #1 or #2 starter if he could put it all together.

Our thought on the righty is that it is a mental issue. He struggles when he has to think about his pitching between starts. When he doesn’t know when he is going to pitch, such as being in relief, he seems to have better success.

The other reason the bullpen looks like a good option is Carrasco’s pretty good the first time through a batting order, but has problems the second time through.

Last Sunday, he mowed down the first nine Toronto hitters he faced, and then gave up six hits and three walks in the next 2-2/3 innings.

Is that an effective start? Overall, 5-2/3 innings with six hits allowed doesn’t look bad, but when you consider all the damage was concentrated in an eight out span, it really isn’t good.

Last year, when pitching in relief, Carrasco held hitters to a .156 batting average in 13-2/3 IP last year, compared to a .383 average in 33 IP as a starting pitcher.

On the other hand, we said the same things about Ubaldo Jimenez last season.

Mickey Callaway worked a miracle with Jimenez a year ago, and by the end of the season, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. Doesn’t Carrasco get the same benefit of the doubt?

The question is, though, whether Carrasco’s problems are mechanical or between his ears. To be sure, Jimenez’ problems were thought to be strictly with his delivery, but we are sure that the pitching coach had to build back the hurler’s confidence too.

If we read between the lines after Carrasco’s starts, we can sense frustration from Terry Francona and Callaway in the pitcher’s inability to maintain what he is being told.

It seems like Carrasco makes changes in his delivery, but when he gets in trouble, he abandons the alterations and goes back to just trying to throw harder.

Is that correctable? Of course, but the manager is trying to win games too.

Some pitchers don’t function well in certain roles. Former Indian reliever Steve Karsay was great as a set up man, but had problems trying to be a closer.

Francona needs to get the most out of Carlos Carrasco. It will be interesting to see if the pitcher can follow the Jimenez success story, or if he will wind up pitching out of the bullpen.

Management has to be more patient than fans. That’s a lesson we can all learn.


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