Fifteen final thoughts for my 15th-seeded alma mater, Eastern Kentucky, which faces Kansas Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Just because Carlos Carrasco has “top-of-the rotation stuff across the board,” as Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday, doesn’t mean Carrasco deserves to be in the rotation. The Indians may be coming to that realization, like it or not.
2. A few days ago, he seemed to be the leading the race for the remaining spot in the starting rotation, ahead of Josh Tomlin and Aaron Harang, signed to a minor league contract.
3. The Indians shouldn’t make a knee-jerk reaction to one spring training start. But Carrasco was horrible against the A’s, giving up nine hits in 2.2 innings and allowing eight runs, five earned. He walked two and struck out two. Francona called it “a frustrating outing” and “a little disappointing.”
4. “We’ll keep fighting,” Francona said. It’s not the Indians who should be fighting, it’s Carrasco.
5. The most alarming part of Carrasco’s day was that the Indians had just addressed the issue that plagued him days before. Yet Carrasco again backed away from his fastball when the A’s started to pound it. If Carrasco isn’t going to get it, there’s not much more they can do except send him to the bullpen.
6. Carrasco has admitted that he likes the unexpected aspect of coming out of the bullpen. That way he doesn’t get too obsessed over the batters he's facing and trying to recall the scouting report. He can just trot to the mound and unleash his 96 mph fastball.
7. Last season he went 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in eight relief outings. His first five (11.2 innings) were scoreless. As a starter he was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven games (33 innings). He is what he is.
8. It may not be long before the Indians decide to go with Tomlin as the No. 4 starter and see if Harang would spend some time at Triple-A Columbus in case a starter is injured or struggles. Zach McAllister must still prove he’s worthy of the No. 3 spot.
9. Or they could open the season with “innings eater” Harang (as pitching coach Mickey Callaway described him) at No. 4 and see if the 35-year-old has anything left and send Tomlin to the minors since he has options remaining. Tomlin is 29 and underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in August, 2012. Pitching in a less stressful environment to start the season might help ease him in, even though based on spring training alone he should be the choice.
10. Francona insisted there were no ulterior motives behind the Indians’ decision to flip-flop Danny Salazar and Carrasco. On the sheet on the bulletin board, Carrasco was slated to start and go five innings against the A’s, with Salazar to finish the game. Salazar said he didn’t find out the order had been changed until he arrived Wednesday morning. “They didn’t tell me anything, Carlos did. (He said) ‘You’re starting today,’” Salazar said with a laugh.
11. “Last year Carlos came in a couple times from the bullpen, I haven’t,” Salazar said. “That would be a little bit different for me. I usually play long toss, throw bullpen and then game. If I come from the bullpen I’m going to play catch, maybe long toss, but I’m going to have to rest for a while before I get into the game. I was ready for it. They just changed it.”
12. Francona’s explanation: "We kept going back and forth on which one. We felt it might be easier for Danny to get ready. Carlos has done it a couple times. Don’t read anything into it. One guy had to start and one guy had to finish. I don’t think you can put on there, ‘I don’t know.’"
13. Asked what he has to improve, Salazar said, “My slider, throwing it more to lefties. Threw it a couple times in the last inning against lefties.”
14. In the third base race, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana have both committed two errors in 11 spring games. Chisenhall made two against the A’s. That may not be a fair comparison because their total chances were not readily available.
15. It is March Madness time in the Indians clubhouse and there are multiple NCAA temptations. Along with brackets ($20 each and $100 each), there is a spread pool. But the most popular choice was the squares, which cost $50 each. I’ve never seen more $50 bills at one time in my life than Tuesday, when the square board went up. At the start there was a limit of two so all could participate. When that was lifted, Nick Swisher kicked in for the final two on Wednesday. Payouts increase by round with $50 for rounds one and two, $100 for the Sweet 16, $200 for the Elite Eight, $250 for the Final Four and $500 for the national championship. My request to purchase a square was denied, but I will be filling out my $20 bracket as soon as I hit the publish button.