Mike Clevinger’s knee surgery reminds us why Carlos Carrasco needs to stay healthyhttps://www.cleveland.com/tribe/2020/02/...ay-healthy.html
By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio – It’s a lot to ask.
That’s what I was thinking when I started writing column about Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco.
Most Cleveland Indians fans have heard Clevinger suffered a knee injury working out Wednesday. He had arthroscopic surgery to repair a partial tear of his left medial meniscus Friday.
The Indians said Clevinger will be out 6-to-8 weeks. It’s seem doubtful he’ll be ready for the opener March 26.
While Shane Bieber is the ace of the staff in the minds of most fans, I considered that role falling to Clevinger, especially after the trades of Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.
Bieber or Clevinger? You can debate which of these talented right arms you like best for the top of rotation. But you can feel good about either one having a strong 2020 season.
Over the last three seasons, Clevinger’s average record was 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Batters hit only .216 against him.
When healthy, the 29-year-old Clevinger has overpowering stuff.
Clevinger also has a very violent pitching motion that puts stress on his back and legs. Last season, he missed 10 weeks with a significant back injury.
So the Indians have to go slowly with Clevinger as he recovers from surgery, even if it’s considered “minor.”
THEY NEED CARRASCO
Which brings me to Carrasco. The right-hander was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last June. He came back to pitch in September, and won the American League Comeback Player of the Year award.
Carrasco had a 6.60 ERA in 11 relief appearances after returning to the field. A couple of rocky outings inflated the numbers.
When several of us talked to Carrasco during Tribefest two weeks ago, he stressed he was healthy. He already was throwing some demanding bullpen sessions.
Early reports from spring training are encouraging.
"He graded out pretty well as far as strength and everything,” Manager Terry Francona told the media in Goodyear. “I thought he looked tremendous. I know he gets tired of us asking him how he’s doing. I said, ‘You’ve got to understand that we have to ask you.’ "
Now, more than ever, that’s true with Clevinger’s situation.
As Francona also told Carrasco: “We’d love for you to take the ball every five days and throw 200 innings.”
In 2017-18, Carrasco averaged 196 innings. He had a 35-16 record and 3.31 ERA in those two seasons.
Can he do that after his battle with leukemia?
Carrasco will be 33 on March 21. He appears to be in excellent physical condition and he is one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet.
Pitcher Jon Lester and first baseman Anthony Rizzo both beat lymphoma when they were in the Boston Red Sox organization. So there is reason for optimism about Carrasco, but we also are talking about a man who was fighting for his life last summer.
REMAKING THE ROTATION
Let’s assume Clevinger opens the season on the disabled list. That puts Bieber and Carrasco at the top of the rotation.
Adam Plutko (7-5, 4.86 ERA) is out of minor league options. He’ll likely have a spot.
For the final two rotation spots, that leaves Aaron Civale (3-4, 2.34 ERA) and Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.81 ERA), who both rose all the way from Class AA Akron last summer.
The Indians also like prospects Jefry Rodriguez and Scott Moss, but are they ready in March and April?
There are question marks about all the young starters. Can they hold up over an entire season?
The Indians know a healthy Carrasco not only can handle the innings, he is one of the best starters in the American League.
And for the Indians to be a contender, Carrasco now looms more important than ever.