CLEVELAND – Ian Kinsler lined an infield single up the middle to emit a collective gasp from a feverish crowd on September 17, 2016 at Progressive Field.
The base knock came on a 1-0 fastball entering at 95.7-mph and exiting at 101.1-mph, right in the direction of Carlos Carrasco’s vulnerable right hand.
Hours later, Carrasco found himself with a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his right hand to bring an abrupt halt to a 2016 season in which he finished 11-8 with a 2.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 150 strikeouts in 146.1 innings of work.
“Our anxiety coming out of camp was that he hadn’t thrown very much,” said manager Terry Francona. “It wasn’t that we didn’t think he was any good. We just weren’t sure he was prepared. Well, he answered that.”
A six-month layoff from toeing the rubber was just what Carrasco needed to rehab his hand and make the necessary adjustments to reclaim the second spot in the starting rotation. The 20-year-old right-hander out of Venezuela has pitched with a mix of command and composure as shown by his career-low 1.78 BB/9 and career-high 95.5% left on base percentage.
“Well he doesn’t walk every many people,” Francona said. “He’s done such a good job holding runners, which is something maybe he wasn’t the best at. He wasn’t bad, but his awareness now and his ability to give our catchers a chance, that’s maybe a smaller thing, but it’s helpful.”
Opposing hitters are batting a meager .175 off Carrasco with a .198 BABIP in a small sample size of 35.1 innings. Carrasco has shown a keen ability to get ahead of hitters and stay ahead with his fastball (51.5% usage rate), slider (15%), curveball (14.4%) and changeup (19.1%).
“His ability to throw off-speed in any count, couple different [pitches], whether it’s the changeup, breaking ball, slider,” said Francona. “He can shape that breaking ball depending on maybe the hitter or the style of hitter. And then he’s got plenty of fastball.”
While Carrasco has been the tough-luck loser in two of his last three quality starts, he has been able to maintain a career-best 0.75 WHIP to go along with his 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame.
“He’s got the body and the stuff,” Francona said. “He’s built in my opinion for 200 innings. He’s in a good spot also. The numbers he’s putting up, they’re not done with smoke and mirrors. He’s doing it by pitching really well.”
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.