Indians, Carrasco avoid arbitration with deal
Right-hander slated to compete for No. 2 spot in rotation
CLEVELAND -- The Indians kept their faith in Carlos Carrasco over the final two months last season and the results were overwhelming. The right-hander shook off a career defined by inconsistency and provided a dominant string of outings that cemented his place in the rotation.
On Thursday night, Carrasco was rewarded for his work with a $2.3 million contract for 2015, avoiding arbitration with the Indians in his first year of eligibility. With the financial side of things complete, Carrasco can now focus his attention on preparing to serve as the No. 2 starter behind American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.
While the Indians have not officially announced Carrasco's signing, a source confirmed that the pitcher will earn $2,337,500 for the 2015 season.
"I would say it flew past encouraging," manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco at the end of last season. "He's got so much to be excited about."
Carrasco, lefty Marc Rzepczynski ($2.4 million) and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall ($2.25 million) each avoided the arbitration process with the Indians on Thursday with one-year deals. The other players who fall into that category this winter for the Tribe include right fielder Brandon Moss, setup man Bryan Shaw and righty Josh Tomlin. Friday marks the deadline for teams and arbitration candidates to exchange proposed salary figures.
If necessary, the arbitration hearings will run from Feb. 1-21, but Cleveland has only gone to a hearing twice (Vinnie Pestano and Tomlin both went before a panel last spring) since 1991.
The 27-year-old Carrasco went 8-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 40 games (14 starts) last season. After a rough start to the year as a starter (0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in four outings), Cleveland opted to move Carrasco to the bullpen, where he found a revamped routine and comfort level.
Carrasco turned in a 2.30 ERA in 26 relief appearances, but pitching coach Mickey Callaway and former bullpen coach Kevin Cash worked to convince Francona to give the righty another shot at starting. Francona eventually agreed to give Carrasco another chance and the pitcher seized the opportunity over his final 10 starts of the season.
"They really deserve a lot of credit," said Francona, referring to Callaway and Cash. "I was so comfortable with where he was in the bullpen and thought that he was really going to grow, as he was. For them to push that hard, that shows how much faith."
Over his last 10 starts, Carrasco went 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA, striking out 78 and walking only 11 in 69 innings. In the final two months of the season, he ranked second in the Majors in ERA (1.70) and fifth in strikeouts (83), among pitchers with at least 60 innings.
"Obviously, we saw, Carlos struggled in the rotation in the first half," general manager Chris Antonetti said at the end of the season. "But Mickey and Kevin were consistent in feeling that the time in the bullpen really made an impact on him and his approach and his mindset. And [they] felt like, if we had that opportunity for him, he would go and thrive."
Carrasco -- acquired from the Phillies as part of the July 2009 trade that sent ace Cliff Lee to Philadelphia -- has gone 19-26 with a 4.30 ERA in 88 big league games with Cleveland in his career. He missed 2012 due to Tommy John surgery and had mixed results as a starter (9.00 ERA in 33 innings) and reliever (1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) in his first season back in '13.
Behind Kluber and Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Gavin Floyd also project to be in the Tribe's starting staff, while Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Tomlin represent the top four candidates for the final rotation job.