DETROIT -- After striking out Anthony Gose to end the third inning on Sunday, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer headed straight to the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park. In that moment, Bauer was not concerned with his possible place in the rotation. He just wanted to check on Carlos Carrasco.
Cleveland absorbed a gut-wrenching blow early in its 6-3 win over the Tigers when Carrasco exited with a left hamstring injury. The severity of the setback is not immediately known, but manager Terry Francona said Carrasco will be placed on the disabled list, meaning Bauer could be poised for a move back to the starting rotation.
"Cookie was cruising right along," said Bauer, referring to Carrasco. "It was very unfortunate with what went down. Hopefully, he's OK. That's what was on my mind was, 'I hope he's OK.' I came up in the clubhouse to check on him after I got out of that inning. I think that's the biggest thing. The team played really well today, and hopefully Carlos is OK."
Carrasco is one of the reasons why the Indians' rotation is so highly touted around baseball this season, so losing him for a prolonged period of time would be a tough blow. After his abrupt departure in the third inning, when he sustained the injury while hustling to cover first base, Carrasco headed back to Cleveland to undergo an MRI exam.
Francona said the team will likely have more details on the extent of the issue on Monday, when the Tribe opens a three-game road series against the Twins. Cleveland is also scheduled to meet Monday with left fielder Michael Brantley (right shoulder), who might be ready to come off the 15-day DL. A trip to the DL for Carrasco would clear a roster spot for Brantley's activation.
After the win in Detroit, Francona did not want to begin speculating on upcoming decisions.
"We'll kind of go one step at a time," Francona said. "We'll see what [the MRI] says. We'll get the readings and then we'll go from there."
In the third inning, Carrasco induced a grounder off the bat of Detroit's Andrew Romine. The pitcher ran off the mound to cover first base, but pulled up in pain shortly before stepping on the bag with his right foot. Carrasco fell to the ground, rolled over in agony and stood up briefly before dropping to his knees again. Two team trainers helped the pitcher off the field, and Carrasco later required assistance in retreating to the clubhouse.
Carrasco headed into Sunday's start with a 2-0 record and 2.79 ERA in three outings this season. The right-hander logged 2 2/3 shutout innings against the Tigers before sustaining the injury. He had two strikeouts and one hit allowed at the time of his exit. Last season, Carrasco won 14 games, posted a 3.63 ERA and struck out 216 batters in a breakout showing.
"The hope is that it's not terrible," Francona said. "I think when you see a guy go down like that, it's not just something that grabbed at him. We'll just wait for the MRI."
One thing that is helpful for Cleveland is the fact that the team has scheduled off-days on Thursday and May 2. Due to the timing of those rest days, the team could operate with a four-man rotation through May 6. Unless the Indians want to shift the order of the starting staff around, they would not need to use a fifth starter until a May 7 home game against Kansas City.
Bauer has spent the bulk of his professional career as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen to begin the season after Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin won the final two starting jobs in the spring.
The Indians are also currently carrying eight relievers, so moving Bauer to the rotation would not have a big impact on the makeup of the relief corps. The right-hander is also better equipped than most to handle such a move, considering his durability. On Sunday, Bauer entered on short notice in the third and then logged 64 pitches over 3 1/3 solid innings, in which he gave up two runs with four strikeouts and one walk.
"Carlos goes down, that's deflating," Francona said. "But Trevor came in and really did a good job. It's easy for us to say, 'Hey, stay ready, because you're going to get an opportunity.' But to his credit, he has really stayed ready. For him to be able to throw 64 pitches and really keep the game right in check is a tribute to him."