CLEVELAND: It didn’t take long for Carlos Carrasco to shake off the memory of his suspension.
Obviously he had no recall of the event, else why would he repeat the offense in his first game back? Granted it’s been almost two years since he buzzed a fastball past the head of the Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler, but Carrasco didn’t actually pay for the misdeed until last week.
Some questions have no answers, though why the Indians lost to the New York Yankees 14-1 Tuesday night isn’t one of them.
The awfulness of Carrasco’s pitching is the primary answer. Maybe Carrasco felt he had to do something out of the box to ease his frustration. Then again, that’s not a good reason to risk another suspension by hitting Kevin Youkilis in the shoulder.
But let’s start from the beginning. On July 29, 2011, Melky Cabrera hit a grand slam off Carrasco then did a little preening before rounding the bases. When Butler stepped in the box, Carrasco unleashed a fastball that whizzed past his eyes.
Carrasco, suspended for six games, went on the disabled list with a sore elbow that required reconstructive surgery in September. So he did not pitch in the big leagues between July 29, 2011 and Tuesday night. Consequently, he did not serve his suspension until this month, before taking the mound.
You would think that Carrasco would be on his best behavior after waiting more than 20 months between starts. But his 2012 debut began badly almost from the outset.
Carrasco gave up four runs in the second inning, two on Brett Gardner’s single and two on Robinson Cano’s double. Ichiro Suzuki homered with nobody on in the third, and Cano went deep with a man on board in the fourth.
The next batter was Youkilis, and Carrasco stuck a fastball in his shoulder.
Plate umpire Jordan Baker calmly tossed a new baseball to Carrasco then threw him out of the game.
“I know it didn’t look good situationally,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He was throwing 96-97, and then he slipped on that pitch and threw 90. That’s what happened. But if you’re on the other side, I understand it.
“The umpire said that Carrasco made an aggressive move. I didn’t see that.”
Carrasco also said he slipped on his follow through, and the pitch got away from him.
“That was the truth,” he said. “I slipped right there. I know it didn’t look good, but I don’t want to hit anybody.”
Carrasco said he didn’t even know he had been ejected.
“I just took the ball and went back to the mound,” he said. “Asdrubal [Cabrera] said I have to leave. After a six-game suspension, I don’t want to do anything bad.”
Francona argued the issue then went back in the dugout and probably looked for a sledgehammer to use on Carrasco. Before he found one, Carrasco came to him.
“I felt really bad,” Carrasco said. “I went to the office and apologized to Tito. I waited for a year and a half, so I don’t want to be suspended again.”
Unless Major League Baseball believes Carrasco’s story, it’s likely he will be suspended again, and this time surgery will not postpone the punishment. As for the Indians’ rotation, which already is in a state of flux because Scott Kazmir is on the disabled list, another Carrasco suspension would create something close to chaos.
Then there’s this: How long can a starter survive if he is suspended after each 3⅔ innings he pitches. That’s how long Carrasco lasted Monday night, having given up seven runs, seven hits and two walks.
Brett Myers, scheduled to start tonight, replaced Carrasco and finished the game, but not without incident. Myers gave up seven more runs on 11 more hits, including home runs by Youkilis, Lyle Overbay and Brennan Boesch. He has given up seven home runs in 10⅓ innings.
Of course, Myers was asked to take one for the team. Zach McAllister can start tonight on four days of rest.
“It was a difficult situation,” Francona said of Myers’ performance. “He gave up some runs, but he saved our bullpen. He knew he was going to stay out there.”
As far as who will start the next day or two, Francona said, “There are a couple of ways we can go.”
The Indians didn’t do much more than pay their respects to the venerable Andy Pettitte, who will be 40 in June. Pettitte confounded Tribe batsmen with an assortment of breaking pitches and off-speed stuff, while executing total command of the strike zone.
He breezed through seven innings, giving up one run, five hits and three walks. Cabrera went deep in the sixth, enabling the Indians to avoid a shutout.
“It’s a hard way to play,” Francona said of falling far behind quickly. “And Pettitte knows exactly what to do with a lead.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.