By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CHICAGO: Career starter Carlos Carrasco has only made five appearances out of the Indians’ bullpen, but manager Terry Francona summoned him to get the last out of the eighth inning and keep pitching through the ninth last week against the New York Mets.
Francona obviously didn’t pick Carrasco’s name out of a hat. It was a test to see how he would do as a back-end reliever, even though the Indians were ahead 9-4. Carrasco retired all four batters he faced.
He said he enjoyed the experience and that there are things he likes about being a reliever but …
“Pitching in the eighth and ninth was good,” Carrasco said. “In the bullpen you don’t have to think about what day you’re going to start again, you just warm up and think about the next hitter. I like that, but I like to start, too.”
Francona said that right now, the club remains committed to Carrasco as a starter. However, with the large number of starters who could be fighting for spots in the rotation next spring, that might change.
The next step
Head trainer Lonnie Soloff has a handle on Justin Masterson’s schedule for at least the next week.
Masterson, recuperating from a strained oblique, will continue to play long toss for the better part of the week, but Soloff is optimistic that he can began throwing bullpen sessions next weekend.
“We want to be cautious at the beginning,” he said.
Presumably, Masterson would have to throw at least two bullpen sessions before facing live hitters, probably in a simulated game or maybe two.
By that time, the regular season is likely to be over. But even if Masterson is prohibited from starting a game in the regular season, he likely would be ready if the Tribe makes the postseason.
Should the Indians win the second American League wild-card spot, the one-game playoff to earn a place in the Division Series will be Oct. 2.
Inasmuch as the regular season ends Sept. 29, manager Terry Francona isn’t likely to have a full range of choices to start the play-in game.
If the rotation remains the same between now and the season finale, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister or Scott Kazmir probably will face the No. 1 wild-card team, which right now is the Texas Rangers. However, if Masterson is ready to resume his place in the rotation, he might be a choice.
This presumes that the race continues until virtually the last game of the regular schedule.
“I would love to [juggle my rotation], but I don’t think that will happen,” said Francona, referring to the fact that the tight race is likely to continue.
Bad old days gone
Marc Rzepczynski went through hard times pitching in the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen this season, compiling a 7.84 ERA in 11 appearances (10⅓ innings pitched).
“I think I had problems executing pitches, and I had some bad luck,” he said. “But it was more executing pitches.”
Since coming to the Tribe, Rzepczynski has a 1.15 ERA in 18 outings (15⅔ IP).
One big difference: Rzepczynski gave up an average of 13.9 hits per nine innings for the Cardinals; for the Indians, he is averaging 4.6 hits allowed per nine innings.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.