Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco reaping benefits from hard work in spring training

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) delivers in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field.
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CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation in the 2017 Major League Baseball Playoffs is going to look a lot different than it did when the team made it to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and right-hander Carlos Carrasco is a big reason why.

Injured last September and unable to play in the postseason, Carrasco is ready to go this time around, and if the regular season is any indication, good things could be in store for the Indians, who had just two healthy arms in the rotation, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin, through the three rounds of competition last year.

“You know what I’m really happy for, as I said in the beginning at spring training, I work really hard to pitch every five days and pitching every five days is really fun, and having my teammates behind me make great plays,” Carrasco said after Cleveland’s 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field Thursday.

“What can I say? All the hard work has paid off. I’m really happy for it.”

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In addition to being injured last September, Carrasco battled through elbow issues in spring training, and yet, still returned to the front end of the Indians’ rotation and finished the regular season with an 18-6 record and 3.29 earned run average over 200 innings of work.

On the way to his 18th win of the season, which drew him into a tie with Corey Kluber for the team lead, Carrasco scattered six hits and one walk, and struck out a season-high 14 Twins hitters over 8.1 innings of work.

It was Carrasco’s fifth double-digit strikeout performance of the season and 15th of his Major League career.

In the fifth inning, Carrasco worked around a leadoff single, and later, a two-out hit that put runners on the corners. Carrasco earned all three outs with swinging third strikes, which gave him a new single-season career best for strikeouts (226).

“You know what, the first game of the season, I just kind of went like five innings or something like that,” Carrasco recalled. “I had that issue in my elbow, but now, it’s really strong and I’m really happy for that.

“I think it was something that made me feel better, all my teammates were going on and they know what we need to do every time we come to play, but we’re here together and we play together and I’m really happy for that.”

Now, Carrasco is ready to turn the page on the 2017 regular season and focus on what lies ahead for the Indians in the postseason.

“I’m really excited for it,” Carrasco said. “I’ve been in two postseasons, 2013, and then, last year, but this year, I am able to pitch, so it’s going to be the same game, more people. Nothing is different, same baseball. I’ll pitch the same way I did in the regular season. It’s going to be the same in the playoffs too.”