CLEVELAND -- Despite having to replace pitching coach Mickey Callaway in the offseason, the Cleveland Indians return all five of their double-digit winners from the 2017 season, including the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber.
And after two years of individual and team success, Indians starter Carlos Carrasco enters spring training this year confident that the best is yet to come for the rotation.
“For the last two years, our rotation has been good,” Carrasco told WKYC.com at TribeFest last month. “This year, it’s going to be great too because we went from playing in the World Series to playing in the postseason, just the first round.
“We’re still there, and we’re still getting better every year. I’m pretty sure this year’s going to be great. I think we’re going to be okay for this year and we’re going to be stronger.”
The winning among the pitchers was contagious and sparked competitiveness in 2017.
During the Indians’ run to a second consecutive American League Central Division Championship with a 102-win season in 2017, the rotation featured a pair of 18-game winners, Carrasco and Kluber, a 17-game winner in Trevor Bauer and two players, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin, who finished with 12 and 10 victories.
“It’s something that we learned three or four years ago,” Carrasco said. “I think everything came from Tito. He said, ‘Why don’t you guys, when you throw your bullpen, take the rest of the guys and go over there?’ I think that was helpful for us.
“Every time Kluber threw a bullpen, we all went there. So every time I throw my bullpen, or Danny or Tomlin, we go over there and watch. We can talk back and forth about what we did wrong or what we can learn. That’s what we learned from those years, and that’s why we’re still really close.”
In September of 2016, Carrasco suffered broken bones in his hand and was lost for the balance of the season, which proved costly, as the Indians were forced to cobble together a rotation with both him and Salazar on the sidelines.
When Carrasco returned for the 2017 season, he did so ready to make an impact, and certainly, he accomplished that.
Carrasco was 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA over 32 starts in 2017. In those outings, Carrasco struck out a career-best 226 hitters over 200.0 innings of work with 173 hits, 73 earned runs and 46 walks allowed. Carrasco’s 226 strikeouts allowed him to surpass his previous personal best, 216, from the 2015 season.
Carrasco was outstanding in road starts this season, posting a sterling 11-2 record with a 2.65 ERA in 17 starts, including one complete game. Carrasco struck out 119 batters against just 25 walks allowed over 105.1 innings of work. Away from Progressive Field, batters hit just .210 against Carrasco.
“Being more consistent with every pitch, I think that’s most important,” Carrasco said. “Two years ago, I was consistent with my fastball, but my breaking ball was kind of a little bit off. Last year was the best year that I had.
“Getting 200 innings, I worked really hard to get to that point. Everything I did last year, I think it’s important to be even more consistent this year.”