Carlos Carrasco decided to do something a little different his last time out. Instead of warming up in the bullpen prior to the start of the game and heading into the dugout before first pitch, Carrasco came out of the bullpen in the bottom of the first as if he didn’t know he was starting and had been called in at the last minute. The purpose of this was psychological as Carrasco, like most pitchers, treats a start differently from a relief appearance. The purpose behind this strategy was because Carrasco had been much more effective out of the pen than in the rotation (1.32 ERA in 13.2 relief IP, 5.63 ERA in 235 IP as a starter) and he wanted to bring that relief success to his starting role.
The change worked wonders. Carrasco gave one of his best relief appearances ever, striking out the side in the first and allowing just one base runners over two innings. Of course, like all relief appearances, the shorter the better and things fell apart after the second. Carrasco used up his arm in those first two innings and his fastball dropped a couple MPH. The first three hitters in the third reached base and allowed runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings before being pulled with two outs in the fifth. After the game, Carrasco claimed his arm tired out and will be skipped in the next time through the rotation to give him some extra rest.
While this was obviously just one instance, the results were exactly as expected. The reason pitchers treat starts and relief appearances differently is because they are different. A starter needs to keep something in the tank early on so he can last through at least the fifth inning. A reliever, on the other hand, can go all out and focus on getting each hitter out no matter what. This start seemed to prove that Carrasco is much better at the latter than the former. Carrasco’s stuff appears to work best out of the bullpen where that couple added MPH can make all the difference between striking out the side and allowing hits to the first three hitters he faces.
Rather than faking a relief appearance next time around, maybe it would be better if he actually just made one. There is no denying Carrasco’s talent, but it is obviously not enough to last five innings. Multiple inning relievers are always in demand, but even more importantly, the Indians have options to take his place. Trevor Bauer made a spot start last week and looked brilliant, allowing just a single run through six innings. For the first time as an Indian, Bauer remained in control, despite being put in a very difficult situation. Ever since the Shin-Soo Choo trade brought Bauer in from Arizona, he has been slated as the ace (or at least number two) of the future and for that to happen, he has to at least be a number five right now. Even when Bauer is a little wild, he still gets better results than Carrasco in the late innings.
The Indians have other options as well if for some reason they don’t want to use Bauer. Josh Tomlin, Shaun Marcum and Kyle Davies are all currently in the minor league system and were competing for the fifth starters role early in Spring. While Bauer would be the best choice, these other pitchers are still available. Tomlin has always been a solid starter for the Tribe (4.92 ERA, 343.2 IP) while Marcum and Davies have both had successes in other organizations. Either way, the Indians obviously have enough starting pitching depth to cover for Carrasco going to the bullpen this season.
Although not quite ready, the Indians also have starting depth going into the future. Cody Anderson, Austin Adams and Giovanni Soto all project to be Major League starters at some point in addition to many other young talents. With Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Zach McAllister under team control for years to come and these young phenoms coming up the pipe, the Indians simply don’t need Carrasco in the starting five.
Carrasco will get the start this Friday against the Blue Jays and it is yet to be seen whether he will come out from the bullpen or dugout. It will be his third start of the season and possibly one of his last chances. He should get at least that one and possibly once more to prove himself, but it is hard to imagine him changing in 10 innings what he has already proven in his first 235. Carrasco could be a dominant reliever in the future and hopefully that future will being as soon as possible.