CLEVELAND -- “You have cancer.”
No matter what form or what stage, that sentence is one that would make anyone’s blood run cold. Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco never expected to be diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, like many other patients who are blindsided with the gut-wrenching news. But despite having
CLEVELAND -- “You have cancer.”
No matter what form or what stage, that sentence is one that would make anyone’s blood run cold. Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco never expected to be diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, like many other patients who are blindsided with the gut-wrenching news. But despite having to fight a battle the 32-year-old never wanted to enter, not once has he asked himself, "Why me?"
“I’m not that kind of person,” Carrasco said. “If it’s happened, it’s for a reason. I cannot control that.”
Carrasco has been trying to focus solely on the things he can control since having to step away from the game. He was placed on the injured list on June 5 with a blood condition, but the news of his diagnosis was learned by his teammates the day prior. Indians manager Terry Francona had called a meeting in the clubhouse, Carrasco included, to explain the hurler’s situation. Since then, they’ve made sure to prove to him that he’s not alone in his fight.
“You know what, they’ve been respectful,” Carrasco said. “They respect what happened. When they found out, they [acted] like the same teammates as before. There’s nothing different. I think everyone’s getting stronger than ever.”
The team instantly got stronger. Since they learned that their beloved “Cookie” was suddenly fighting a disease rather than fighting for wins, the Indians clicked in a way they hadn’t before. It was like they received their own wake-up call, allowing them to take a step back and realize that they are playing a game every day and to have more fun while doing so, while not taking an inning for granted.
Entering that meeting on June 4, the Indians trailed the Twins by 11 1/2 games in the American League Central. Since then, they’ve posted the best record in MLB in that 29-game span, going 21-8 and cutting six games off Minnesota’s lead entering the second half of the season. And they all say they’re playing for Cookie.
“To hear that, it made me really happy because they've always been there, too,” Carrasco said. “Everyone from the team, if I could show you, I had like 300, maybe 500 texts from them every day, [asking] how did I feel. They [are] special to me. They feel like home. They feel like family.”
While he’s going through his treatments, Carrasco is still cleared to do physical activity and has been throwing regular bullpen sessions over the past week or two, including during Thursday’s optional team workout. The right-hander said that he feels normal while he’s pitching but is not sure if he’ll be able to return to the mound this season.
“I’m just going to take it day by day,” Carrasco said. “I don’t know. I don’t have the answer, but I’m glad to be here around my teammates and just coming here to practice.”
“There isn’t a plan, and I don’t mean that like we don’t care,” Francona said. “But the idea is for him to do as much as he can or as much as he can tolerate because it will be good for him. Other than that, we’re not pushing him. We’re just trying to be supportive.”
In his time away from the game, Carrasco has been visiting children in the pediatric cancer wing of the Cleveland Clinic.
“You know, I think it’s great, just to go there and visit kids and have a different day,” Carrasco said. “You don’t want to spend a lot of time in the hospital. I’m pretty sure those kids, they are spending a lot of time there. Just to go there and have some fun and just think about some different stuff and talk to them about baseball, I think that’s great. It’s something that I love to do, that I’ve been doing for the last four or five years. I think it’s most important to go there to make those kids smile, and it makes me happy.”
With the support his teammates have shown him over the last few weeks, Carrasco was ready to hand it right back during the All-Star break, showing up at the Derby with an Indians jersey that had “Santana, Lindor, Bieber, Hand” on the back. But his team had another act in store, honoring him during the fifth-inning Stand Up To Cancer tribute by holding signs that said they stood for “Cookie,” during the All-Star Game.
“Yes, it was great,” Carrasco said. “Even that I have my teammates in there. Tito was there too, another guy from another team. It was a great moment for me. I really enjoyed that.”
“I had seen Carlos, I think it was in the third inning,” Francona said. “I came up here to come up and I ran into him in the hallway and I already knew what we were going to do and it was pretty emotional already and then. That, to me, is a really powerful moment in the game, when you see 50,000 people or whatever and the Commissioner and the people in the pressbox and the umpires -- and then when they did that thing for Cookie, holy smokes, you talk about putting an exclamation point on it. It was incredible.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.