The Indians have spent most of the season waiting for two key pieces to return from the disabled list. It appears as though they’ll be getting at least one of them back soon.
Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco took an important step in his rehab from a strained left hamstring on Saturday, throwing four innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits and striking out six for Double-A Akron. He threw 53 pitches and then roughly another 10 in the bullpen. The feedback was positive.
?“I think pretty good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Covered first in the first inning … Handled all that. It was good. By all accounts, by his own account, looked healthy and seemed raring to go.”
It’s the first time he had thrown anything above a simulated game or a bullpen session. Carrasco has been on the DL since straining his hamstring trying to cover first base in a game in Detroit on April 24. He was given an original timetable of 4-to-6 weeks, of which he’s currently near the middle.
Carrasco will have a side day of work on Monday, but the next step is still undetermined. It’s possible Carrasco needs a second rehab appearance. Though, when asked if the next move could be to rejoin the Indians, Francona only said, “We’ll sit and figure it out.”
Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched before going down with that injury. Trevor Bauer took his spot in the rotation, and Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson have made starts during his absence.
Kipnis in the field
Indian second basemen Jason Kipnis hasn’t had the kind of torrid offensive start to this season that he had in 2015 when he earned an All-Star selection, this year hitting .271 with a .320 on-base percentage, six home runs and eight doubles. He has, recently, been making as many plays with his glove than with his bat.
By most measurements, Kipins has been better defensively since the start of last season than he had ever been in his first four years. Specifically, his range has been improved. Last year Kipnis has a range runs above average (RngR) of 4.3, the first year that had been a positive number, according to FanGraphs. A positive number indicates above league average. This year, it’s 2.2.
Kipnis’ ultimate zone rating, a more complete defensive rating, was 4.3 last year and is 4.5 this year, the two highest marks of his career.
Kipnis made a couple diving plays during the Indians’ 5-1 homestand earlier in May. He made another in Saturday’s 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He also made a catch in shallow right field in Cincinnati that would rival some of Francisco Lindor’s best highlights this season.
Francona has been impressed with Kipnis’ defense in his time in Cleveland, especially from a player who didn’t grow up only playing that position. Kipnis is a converted second basemen.
“It’s funny, and he’ll probably tell you, it’s not his natural position and he has to really work at it,” Francona said. “He doesn’t have the luxury of not working at it. But because he’s athletic and he does work at it, he does a hell of a job and he’s got a good arm and he’s athletic. … He doesn’t have the ability to not take ground balls for a week. He’s a natural outfielder, but he’s done a hell of a job.”
In a way, that outfielder’s background helps him make plays Francona sees other middle infielders struggle to consistently make, like that catch in Cincinnati.
“Some guys, for whatever reason, might be really good infielders but shy away on that ball in the air. That was one of the things they were saying [when I got here], that he has a radar.”