Carlos Carrasco Alters Physical And Mental State In 2014

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Modified Delivery & Pregame Routine Lead To Success For Carrasco

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During last seasons’ winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, Cleveland Indians manager Tito Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway met with Carlos Carrasco  who lives nearby in Tampa and his throwing partner Julio Rangel.

The purpose of the meeting was to go over a few items to work on prior to spring training (AUDIO).

One of them was a plan to alter Carrasco’s delivery to give him more deception on his fastball. All they asked for was for Carrasco to raise his left arm (lead arm) during his delivery.

One expectation that Francona has of any player is that they put 100 percent effort into what’s asked of them. The task at hand is to be attacked on a daily basis and the path from old delivery to new delivery is not be a continued work in progress. At some point during the process the changes should have stuck.

Unfortunately, as we read so many times in spring training, Francona would say that Carrasco dropped his shoulder but was happy to see him make the adjustment mid-game. This comment is acceptable in late February or even early March but to hear it repeated after nearly every outing became predictable and the irritation from both Callaway and Francona started to show.

For Carrasco, the issue was evident. A pitcher cannot have a mind divided on the mound. It has to be about making your pitch not about where your hands are, where the front shoulder is, where the leg lands, etc. This is why pitchers get distracted with a runner on base — a mind divided is not a good thing to carry with you when toeing the rubber for your team.

Early in the season, the frustration between Callaway/Francona and Carrasco was evident. After Carrasco’s second start of the season on April 11, his fastball went from 96-97 MPH in the first two innings to 90-92 in his last  2.2 innings.

“I don’t know why he’s tired after two innings,” said Mickey Callaway. “You’ll have to ask him.”

Carrasco was slightly miffed at the suggestion that the problem may be in his conditioning.

“I work hard,” he said. “I do everything. Really, I’m trying to find out what’s going on. I’m trying to do my best. I need to do something because I can’t do this anymore.”

The Indians had an off day on the schedule and sent Carrasco to the pen to work with Callaway, as his next start was nine days away.  On April 20, he allowed the Blue Jays to score four runs in 5.2 innings of work and in his next start by the Giants he allowed four runs in six innings.

After the start against manager Terry Francona was asked if Carrasco was pitching for his job.

“You’d have to ask him that,” said Francona. “He’s pitching to help us win. That’s what everybody does. That’s why we play. I don’t know how to even answer that.”

For Carrasco the frustration was evident.

“The last couple innings when I do it right here (arm up), I’m 90-92,” he said. ” Normally, I’m 94-96. I don’t know what’s different.”

Aug 14, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59), catcher Carlos Santana (41) and pitching coach Mickey Callaway (44) walk from the bull pen before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Something had to change. He wasn’t comfortable running out there with a mind divided and unable to get the results he wanted and the Callaway/Francona were frustrated with the inability for Carrasco to follow through on the mechanical adjustment.

The Indians elected to move him back to the bullpen where he had success in 2013 and called up Trevor Bauer to take his spot in the rotation. Like in 2013, he had success as a reliever appearing in 26 games and posting an ERA of 2.30 (11ER/43.0IP) while holding the opposition to a .217 average and an OPS of .561.

On August 10, he returned to the rotation against the New York Yankees and delivered five innings of scoreless baseball. His success continued through the rest of the season making a total of 10 starts, posting a record of 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA (1oER/69.0IP) while striking out 78 and walking 11.  He held the opposition to a .179 batting average and an OPS of .445.

As Carrasco was succeeding in the bullpen, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash and Callaway continued to press Terry Francona to put him back in the rotation. Callaway is so convinced of his value.

“For us to be a championship organization, Carlos Carrasco needs to start,” Cash said.

For his part, Carrasco showed that change is possible. When he returned to the rotation he scrapped the full windup, electing to stay with the abbreviated one that he had used in the bullpen. He also reduced his bullpen time before each start and got loose by shagging fly balls with his teammates during batting practice.

Francona was obviously pleased with the new version.

“As he continued to pitch and do well in the bullpen, I think Carlos finally realized that he didn’t need gimmicks to ease the anxiety,” said Tito. “He just needed to do what he does. His confidence is obviously very high, which it should be. It’s one of the more exciting things that’s happened this year because pitching is so hard to find.”

Carrasco’s future appears to be burning bright. He wasn’t able to deliver the mechanical adjustment that the manager and pitching coach had wanted but was pliable enough to alter his mechanics and mental approach to the game to enter spring training with a firm grip on a spot in the Tribe’s rotation.

After dominating the Houston Astros by delivering a complete game shutout and allowing just two infield hits, he summed up his season perfectly.

“Yes, I think I’ve found a way, I know they’ve given me a lot of opportunities,” he said. “They gave me another in August. I’m going to hold on to that.”

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