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Carrasco poised to answer to call of ace

Right-hander blossoming into one of game's top hurlers
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the trade rumors persisted, the texts kept coming in. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco did not even need to see the reports, considering how family members and friends were constantly peppering his cell phone with messages.

As Carrasco tried to prepare for the coming season, he could not take it any longer.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the trade rumors persisted, the texts kept coming in. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco did not even need to see the reports, considering how family members and friends were constantly peppering his cell phone with messages.

As Carrasco tried to prepare for the coming season, he could not take it any longer.

"I blocked so many numbers in my phone," Carrasco said on Wednesday morning. "Too many."

Video: Kluber, Carrasco on goals for Spring Training

Someone told him he was being traded to the Yankees. Another person said they heard he was going to the Red Sox. Carrasco -- fed up with the distractions -- told everyone to stop paying attention to the news and wait for him to call them if something actually happened. And, truth be told, Carrasco did not expect Cleveland to trade him this past winter.

Carrasco kept the midseason meeting he had with Indians manager Terry Francona last year in mind. As trade rumors came up in the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Francona pulled the pitcher aside and assured him that he was not going anywhere. So, Carrasco knew he could trust Francona or Chris Antonetti, the Tribe's president of baseball operations, to contact him if rumors evolved into reality.

That call never came, so Carrasco kept his focus on 2016.

Tweet from @MLBastian: At Trade Deadline last year, Tito told Carrasco: "You're not going anywhere." That held true through offseason, too. pic.twitter.com/ObQGtMxMlW

"Speaking about it as honest as you can," Francona said, "I never thought somebody was going to get traded. ... We just feel too strongly about what we have. It has a chance to be a pretty special group. They're young, but they've got a chance. Their better days, we think, are ahead of them."

Cleveland's acclaimed rotation will be anchored by 2014 American League Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber, who is expected to be followed by Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and either Josh Tomlin or Cody Anderson. Carrasco was arguably the Tribe's most consistent starting pitcher last season, which was his first full campaign as a starter in the big leagues.

Video: Outlook: Carrasco could be on the cusp of ace status

The Indians signed Carrasco to a club-friendly contract extension at the outset of last season, giving him $19.7 million guaranteed for 2016-18 with a pair of team options for '19 and '20. It was revealed around the same time that the pitcher has dealt with a heart issue, which is managed through medication. He was struck in the head by a line drive in his second start, missed time in August because of a shoulder issue and, despite all the challenges, still turned in a career year.

"There was a lot going on last year," Carrasco said with a laugh.

When the smoke cleared on Carrasco's season, he had 14 wins, 216 strikeouts and a 3.63 ERA in 183 2/3 innings. Twice, Carrasco flirted with a no-hitter, even coming within one strike of history in a July 1 outing on the road against the Rays. He finally looked like the kind of workhorse the Indians felt they acquired when they obtained Carrasco as part of the 2009 trade that shipped lefty Cliff Lee to the Phillies.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Francona: "If you look at the ... sabermetric numbers, [Carrasco] was one of the better pitchers in the game." pic.twitter.com/hJlupv1sV3

"It flew past encouraging," Francona said. "If you look at not just traditional numbers, but if you look at the secondary numbers, sabermetric numbers, this guy was one of the better pitchers in the game. And I think he has the body, the arm, the frame to probably get better."

Carrasco hopes to do precisely that, beginning with his work this spring.

The big right-hander said he plans to focus on his slider and keeping the release point of all his pitches consistent. Carrasco also noted that he has worked closely with Ceci Clark, a performance coach for Cleveland, on honing the mental side of his game. The pitcher said a large part of that includes "staying in the moment" on the mound and off the field.

As part of that process, Carrasco has become better at eliminating distractions.

"I'm trying to be in the moment," he said, "and trying to build on those things I did last year."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco