GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: Where does Terry Francona stand on pitch counts? Like most managers, he thinks they help gauge a pitcher’s fatigue, but he is not a slave to them.
“It’s one of a lot of different ways to protect your pitcher and keep track of his work load,” Francona said Saturday.
He has learned it isn’t always wise to trust pitch counts.
“They can be a little false,” he said. “But what they do — when you know your guy — is when he gets to a certain point, you think he better be doing this.”
Pitchers can have easy innings and tough ones. Not all pitches are created equal, and a starter who has breezed through seven innings might be fresher than a pitcher who has struggled through three innings.
“Pitch counts can be overrated,” Francona said. “Part of it is how strenuous the pitches are.”
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? — Carlos Carrasco continues to dazzle Tribe staffers, including Francona, and never mind that he’s coming off elbow reconstruction surgery.
“It looks like the hard work paid off,” Francona said. “I’m trying not to get too excited, but it’s hard not to.”
Nevertheless, Carrasco does not have a guaranteed spot in the rotation.
“There’s going to be a group of guys who fight it out,” Francona said. “But with his stuff, the ceiling is up to him.”
One obstacle: Pitchers returning from serious surgery must regain their sharpness.
“That will be the gauge,” Francona said. “Is he ready to help us win games? But there’s no limit on him. He’s ready to go.”
THE SCHEDULE — Many managers begin playing their regulars for eight or nine innings the final week of exhibition play. Francona has another priority.
“There have been times when I won’t play those guys for nine innings,” he said. “I think playing back-to-back games is more important than having a guy stand out there for nine innings.”
SMITH UPDATE — Joe Smith’s sore oblique continues to be more of a nuisance than an impediment. But since it’s s long time until the season starts, there’s no reason to rush him.
“He’s throwing from 105 feet and doing exactly what we hoped,” Francona said. “He’ll be fine.”
— Sheldon Ocker