ANAHEIM, CALIF.: Sending Carlos Carrasco to the bullpen might be a move that brings relief to both the Indians’ rotation and to Carrasco himself.
Although no doubt disappointed that he wasn’t able to get the job done as a starter, taking a step back to collect himself and focus on fixing the problem instead of dealing with mounting failure and frustration every five days could be just what Carrasco needs.
“I think he maybe felt that way a little bit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You never want to speak for anyone else, but I think he understood. I think maybe that was a little bit of his feeling.”
So Carrasco will be pitching coach Mickey Callaway’s main project while pitching out of the bullpen.
Last season as a rookie coach at the big-league level, Callaway showed a gift for being able to help struggling pitchers reverse their fortunes.
Consider for example the mess that was former Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez. After just one season of working with Callaway, Jimenez parlayed his successful 2103 season into a four-year $50 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
Another Callaway student last season, veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir, revived his major league career and went on to sign a two-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland Athletics.
Now it’s Carrasco’s turn and there is a prevailing theory that Carrasco just might be more suited to being a reliever than a starting pitcher anyway.
He had much more success as a reliever than a starter last season.
In 15 games, Carrasco, 27, was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven games as a starter. In eight relief appearances, he was 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA, limiting opposing batters to a .156 batting average.
Instead of giving up on Carrasco as a starter, the Indians had Callaway work with him in the offseason, revamping his delivery. The theory was that if Carrasco would keep his lead (left) arm up higher, it would create more deception with his pitches.
But when Carrasco didn’t get the desired results in his first four outings (he went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA), he got frustrated and reverted to his old form during his last outing Friday in San Francisco. Afterward, he told reporters he thought his new delivery led to decreased velocity. The next day, Callaway and Francona met with Carrasco and showed him with video that it wasn’t the case.
Moving Carrasco (who is out of minor-league options) to the bullpen was the Indians’ only choice. They hope it is the best thing for him both physically and mentally. Physically, it gives Callaway more time to work with Carrasco to help his tweaked delivery become a part of muscle memory.
“It gives him the chance to get off the mound a little more frequently,” Callaway explained. “If he’s not starting, we can get him off the mound to throw on flat ground every day. That’s good for his daily work because he won’t be as sore and then we can work on things more.”
With Carrasco now in Callaway’s charge, Francona and Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti can focus on determining who will be brought up to take the vacant spot in the rotation. Both right-hander Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are pitching well at Triple-A Columbus and are the top two candidates.
Bauer has been more dominant with the Clippers and pitched well in a spot start (one earned run in a six innings with eight strikeouts) so he is likely to be the Indians’ first choice. Whoever it is, Francona wouldn’t tip his hand.
“It’s just not productive right now,” he said of making the move before a starter is needed May 6. In the time being, Zach McAllister will start in Carrasco’s place today.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.