GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Carlos Carrasco is as excited as any Indians player to get spring training started.
Carrasco tweaked his delivery and revamped his mental approach in the offseason and he is confident he’s ready to land a permanent spot in the Indians’ starting rotation.
Carrasco’s delivery change, in which Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway got him to lift his lead arm to create more deception on his fastball, allows him to control the ball better in the strike zone.
“Before, everything was going up, now, it keeps everything down,” Carrasco said. “My breaking stuff, my fastball. I just see such a difference before and after. Now, everything’s down … I think I can pitch in the rotation now, that’s what I want. I feel like that’s my spot and nobody can take it.”
Callaway shares Carrasco’s optimism.
“We went down [to Florida] to see him pitch and meet with him during the winter meetings,” Callaway said. “He’s eager for the season to start because he knows he can pitch better than he’s pitched in the past. I think these few adjustments we made in the offseason really get his body in the positions we want him in. He looks really natural and the ball’s coming out of his hand great. We’re obviously excited about him because his stuff is so good. He knows he needs to pitch better than he has in the past and he’s ready to show he can.”
All winter Indians manager Terry Francona talked up how well Carrasco looked following an up-and-down 2013 season that ended with Carrasco stuck in a crowded bullpen when he was unable to hold down a starting role.
“I know he’s comfortable and he’s had a good winter,” Francona said of the 6-foot-3, 212-pound right-hander who is out of options. “He’s strong, he’s excited and it’s time to show what he can do.”
Carrasco had five stints with the Indians last season, but it wasn’t until being relegated to the bullpen in August that he finally began to understand the kind of mentality he needs to have on the mound, whether starting or relieving.
“He was definitely more aggressive when he came in from the bullpen,” Francona said. “And if he takes that to his starting mentality, not taking pitches off and relaxing, it’ll help him.”
As a starter with the Indians last year, Carrasco went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven starts. He still has a nine-game losing streak as a starting pitcher that dates back to July 5, 2011. As a reliever, Carrasco was a totally different pitcher. He did not allowing a run in his first five appearances went 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in eight outings.
Something else that will help Carrasco is learning how to tame his quick temper on the mound. He opened last season as the Tribe’s fifth starter, but first had to serve a six-game suspension for an incident during the 2011 season in which he hit Kevin Youkilis of the New York Yankees following a home run by Robinson Cano.
“This offseason, I worked so hard on this,” Carrasco said, pointing to his head. “Before I was like 50 [percent] mental and 50 [percent] pitching. Now, I see how much more important my mental approach is.”
Carrasco admitted he is looking forward to the first real jam he finds himself in once spring training games begin later this month.
“I want to show everyone I’m different,” he said. “I’ve been competing for a starting spot for four years. Last year was hard, just coming back from Tommy John [elbow ligament replacement surgery]. Now, I just feel it’s a new year and I feel different. I’m healthy. And with my new mechanics, I’m confident.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.