In return to rotation, Carrasco keeps it simple with reliever routine
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco is acting a lot like a reliever these days – by design.
And since moving to the rotation on Aug. 10, he’s looking a lot like a very successful reliever – himself.
When re-inserted into the Indians starting rotation for an Aug. 10 start vs. the Yankees in New York, Carrasco has carried over all of his habits from his successful 26-game stint in the bullpen.
Typically, when the entire team emerges from their clubhouse for an early stretch before batting practice, that day’s starting pitcher remains in the clubhouse. He also stays there during BP, when the rest of the pitchers shag fly balls in the outfield.
After BP is over, the scheduled starter will proceed to his team’s dugout approximately 30 minutes before first pitch to go through a myriad of exercises with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, bullpen coach Kevin Cash and, catchers Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes (whoever is starting that day).
Carrasco has bucked conventional wisdom by changing that typical starter routine – and it’s worked brilliantly. Last season and in April this year, Carrasco admitted to struggling with the mental aspect of being in the rotation, with thinking for four days about who he’ll be facing on his day.
After struggling in the rotation, Carrasco moved to the pen, where in 39 innings he allowed 8ER (1.85 ERA), with 34 strikeouts and a .200 opponents average.
When Carrasco moved back to the rotation, he carried a reliever’s routine over. He stretches early with his pitcher friends. He shags fly balls. He heads to the bullpen area to meet Callaway, Cash and the catcher about 15 minutes before first pitch, and throws fewer pitches than a more typical starter’s warmup would entail.
It’s worked: In Carrasco’s four starts, he’s 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA over 24.2 innings, with 24 strikeouts.
“Being in the bullpen is a different mindset; it’s a credit to all those relievers who played a role in relaxing his mind a little bit,” Cash said. “Starters have four days to dwell on things – as a reliever, you’d better get over it. Carlos learned that and responded.”
Baseball by nature has a lot of down time – a lot of time to think, especially on the road, where Carrasco will start tonight, in Chicago. Getting out of the clubhouse early, and remaining active, has helped Carrasco on the days he’s started.
“It’s a way to keep him mentally engaged,” Callaway said.
For his part, Carrasco said he has stopped dwelling on too much before his starts, and has kept it simple: Just pitch.
“You don’t have to save anything,” he’s told reporters after a couple starts. “I just go as hard as I can go.”
–TribeVibe contributor Joel Hammond