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Carrasco feels 'back to normal' after testing arm

Indians pitcher on DL since June 16 after line drive struck elbow
MLB.com @MLBastian

ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Carrasco headed through the tunnel behind the visitors' dugout at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon, his clothes drenched in sweat from a workout in the muggy conditions. The most important item checked off his schedule was a mound session in the ballpark's bullpen.

"It went great," said Carrasco, still catching his breath. "Like back to normal."

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ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Carrasco headed through the tunnel behind the visitors' dugout at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon, his clothes drenched in sweat from a workout in the muggy conditions. The most important item checked off his schedule was a mound session in the ballpark's bullpen.

"It went great," said Carrasco, still catching his breath. "Like back to normal."

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That is great news for the Indians, who received a scare when Carrasco was struck on the right elbow by a line drive off the bat of Minnesota's Joe Mauer on June 16 in Cleveland. Carrasco (10-day disabled list) sustained a contusion and dealt with swelling that limited his range of motion, but the pitcher avoided any structural damage.

During Monday's bullpen session, Carrasco tested fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed pitches in a 25-pitch workout. The right-hander noted that he plans on increasing the work load to 40 pitches off the mound on Wednesday in St. Louis. If everything goes as planned, Carrasco might then embark on a Minor League rehab assignment as early as Saturday.

"Everything went well," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We'll sit with him and decide, and he'll be a part of this, if it's in his best interest to maybe go throw a couple innings in a game somewhere. That could be a possibility, but we'll sit down with him and figure that part out."

When Carrasco does return, Cleveland will need to decide between Shane Bieber (2-0, 2.45 ERA in three starts) and Adam Plutko (4-1, 4.66 ERA in five starts) for the last spot in the rotation. Combined, the rookie right-handers have posted a 3.80 ERA with 43 strikeouts against 11 walks in 47 1/3 innings, helping strengthen the back of the starting staff with Carrasco out.

"It's like the glass looks more full," Francona said of the young pitchers stepping up. "Anytime you get young guys coming up and they contribute, it's good for like enthusiasm. ... It's almost like somebody makes a good trade or something. It gives your team a shot in the arm. You get a guy like Bieber that looks legit, it gets exciting."

Indians still in talks with top picks
Prior to Monday's game against the Cardinals, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff noted that the club remains in negotiations with their top two Draft picks, catcher Noah Naylor (29th overall) and pitcher Ethan Hankins (35th overall). Typically, Cleveland selects players with a high level of confidence that they will sign with the organization.

Video: Draft 2018: Indians draft C Noah Naylor No. 29

According to a report by Doug Freeman of PrepBaseballReport.com out of Florida on Monday, Hankins has signed with Chipola Junior College. That would allow Hankins to be eligible for the Draft again next year, if he does not get a deal done with Cleveland by the July 6 signing deadline.

Tweet from @DougFreemanPBR: BREAKING: Ethan Hankins, who was taken 35th overall by the #Indians, has signed with @Chipola_BSB. Hankins is still in negotiations with the club, but very interesting move as he would be draft eligible again next year if they don't get the deal done. @PBR_JUCO @PBRGeorgia

The 35th pick came with a slot value of $2,016,400, while Naylor's position at No. 29 came with a slot value of $2,332,700. The Indians have signed 27 of the players taken by the team in the MLB Draft earlier this month.

Worth noting
• Left-hander Andrew Miller (10-day DL, right knee) did not make the trip with the Indians to St. Louis. Miller remained back in Cleveland, where he is focusing on rehab and strengthening work, while continuing a flat-ground throwing program. There is no established date for his return to the mound.

• Per Francona, lefty Tyler Olson (10-day DL, left lat strain) bounced back well on Monday after resuming a throwing program on Sunday. Olson will continue to play catch with the goal of building up to a mound session before the end of the current road trip.

• Bench coach Brad Mills will not be with the Indians during the current series in St. Louis due to a death in his family. Mark Budzinski will serve as the acting bench coach, with third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh assisting with Mills' duties.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco