All are just some of the phrases that I’ve heard (and used) with regards to the Indians’ starting pitcher, Carlos Carrasco.
If I’m to be honest with you about Carrasco and his expectations, I would have been perfectly content had the Cleveland Indians released him earlier this year.
I’m a Cleveland Indians’ fan. When the Indians dealt Clifford Phifer Lee way back in 2009, I was pissed off. The Indians and their front office had blown apart a team that was one game away from the 2007 World Series. Their response to that was to deal away CC Sabathia, and Victor Martinez, and Cliff Lee.
The short-term results weren’t good, and it pissed me off.
I’m pretty okay with those feelings, even if they are irrational.
Being a fan is irrational. That’s why it’s fun.
Matt LaPorta was the centerpiece to the Sabathia deal, even if Michael Brantley turned out to be the star of that deal. Justin Masterson was the centerpiece to the VMart deal, even if some prospect-bots would argue that it was Nick Hagadone. Carlos Carrasco was the centerpiece to the Cliff Lee deal, even though some would point to flame-throwing Jason Knapp, who I think was somewhere around five years old when that deal went through.
LaPorta is out of baseball right now (thank you Michael Brantley).
Masterson is making sporadic appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals in their bullpen, while Hagadone has long since been up and down in the bullpen for the Indians, although he’s mostly up right now.
He’s been a lost top-prospect.
He’s been a Quad-A player.
He’s been an ace, in his much bally-hooed five start stint in June of 2011.
He’s been a head-hunter.
He’s been hurt.
He’s been suspended.
He’s been given a last chance.
He’s been a head-hunter…again.
He’s been suspended and banished.
He’s been moved to the pen.
He’s been sent to the minors (several times).
He’s been given more last chances.
He’s been moved back to the pen.
And now there’s…well…now.
Carrasco was all of the above, and has always been an enticing prospect. The Tommy John surgery he endured only enhanced that, and he returned with some added pop to his already impressive velocity. He always could throw hard, but now could top out at 97-99, instead of 95 or 96. He has always had a fantastic change-up, which was made more devastating by his improved velocity. When your change-up mimics your fastball, and is 90 MPH in its own right, you have problems as a hitter. His slider is an 88-90 MPH hitter, head-scratcher, and his low-to-mid 80’s curveball drops off the table.
While a few MPH’s have been added (which is huge), what’s held back the enigmatic righty has been his head. He lacked command on the mound, became visibly upset when something bad happened, and couldn’t seem to make the jump to the bigs as an effective-and-consistent starter.
Then he moved to the pen mid-year in Cleveland, and things began to change. Really, you could argue that they began changing in Spring Training, and that Terry Francona didn’t allow him to continue to build on the modifications placed in his delivery, and more importantly, in his head. Carrasco looked good.
Carrasco looked really good.
This is where I must interject into the Carlos Carrasco story for a bit more of my irrational fan-dom. I wasn’t a Carrasco-believer. At the beginning of the year, I thought the Indians were wasting their time. When they sent him down to the minors, I thought he was clogging up space. When they moved him to the pen, I thought it was just a matter of time before he would implode. When he was announced for the rotation, I thought they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.
It just didn’t matter to me that he was showing command, or was nearly unhittable. It didn’t matter to me that his K-Rate was 9 and that he was nearly hitting 100 MPH on the gun.
Frankly, there was nothing the guy could do to get into my good graces.
It’s not like the guy cost me money, or kicked my dog, or has a son that beats on my kids on the bus. It’s not like he called the Indians and said, “Yo, trade me for Clifford Phifer Lee, Cy Young Award winner.”
Perhaps it was unrealistic expectations. Perhaps I am secretly a cynical Indians’ fan that grew up with the abysmal teams of the 70’s and 80’s, who has a hard time buying into players after having World Series dreams dashed so many times in the mid-to-late 90’s, and again in 2007.
Or, perhaps it was the simple idiocy of watching a player with so much talent seemingly never find the trigger to deliver that talent to major league hitters without eventually imploding.
I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I gave Carrasco both barrels of my disdain.
I’m likely just an idiot.
Whatever the case, Mickey Callaway has Carrasco humming on all-cylinders.
Carrasco’s heater is more or less a set-up pitch to his curveball, slider and changeup. While I’ve mentioned the change, both benders have become excessively effective in that they are providing a multitude of swinging-strikes. On Wednesday night, Carrasco looked downright dominant in his approach towards hitters.
Not only was he mixing all four of his plus pitches, but his attitude and demeanor was majestic. He was in control of his emotions, and in the few instances in which they bubbled over, you could see that it was temporary…a response to doing what he actually intended.
Carrasco was in control, and that’s something that I’ve never seen before.
Props have to go to Callaway, who is pulling career years out of retreads in the type of fashion that is surely making General Managers take notice.
Props have to go to Yan Gomes, who also joined the fray at the start of the Indians’ starting pitching uprising last year.
But most of the props have to go to Carlos Carrasco, a pitcher that I would have traded to any team in America for a six-pack and a Panini’s Overstuffed sandwich.
But that’s the joy of being a baseball fan. There’s a real joy in watching the players you don’t count on not only play well, but dominate. I’m a Cleveland Indians’ fan. I want my team to win. I want my players to excel. Believing they are terrible is one thing, but I never…ever root against them.
Last night was easily my favorite game of the season. The target of many years of ridicule shoved it in my face with a 98 MPH fastball, a 90 MPH change, a slider in the dirt, and ended it with an 83 MPH curveball that had me way out in front.
Carrasco is the ultimate icing on the cake, or in this case, the signature slaw on the sandwich.