Looking back at the Cleveland Indians run to the World Series last season, it's still somewhat unfathomable that it even happened at all. The Indians backbone, a pitching staff that went five deep in every sense of the phrase, was broken when Danny Salazar complained of elbow issues, landing him on the disabled list in August. Then, when Carlos Carrasco was drilled on his throwing hand by a baseball off the bat of Ian Kinsler in mid-September, fracturing his fifth metacarpal and sidelining him for the rest of the year, things felt beyond repair.
Except they weren't. The Indians sped to the World Series behind the steady hand of Corey Kluber, the brilliance of Josh Tomlin and an impenetrable bullpen, and though they fell one game short of the trophy, the 2016 playoffs will go down as one the most memorable postseason runs the Tribe has ever had.
When the offseason came, the Indians reloaded. Signing Edwin Encarnacion to immediately plug into the cleanup spot of the lineup was a coup, to be sure, but getting both Salazar and Carrasco back healthy is like adding to top-end free agent pitchers back into the Indians rotation. VFTT briefly caught up with Carrasco to talk his recovery, what he's learned from Kluber and if the Indians will be back in the World Series next season.
VFTT: It's been a while since we've seen you, Carlos. How was your offseason?
Carlos Carrasco: Everything is good, man. Offseason went great. From the last game (until now), I just went back home and started training. I know this year is going to be a long season. We have unfinished business. I'm really excited to be here.
What was your rehab like?
It was really easy with my hand. I did exercises like squeezing some balls, and I started throwing two months ago, nice and easy. Today (Jan. 27), for the first time, I threw my curveball and it felt great. I think the next step is throwing my bullpen and we can go from there.
Was it harder to have to sit out during the postseason because your rehab wasn't as strenuous as, say, tearing your ACL or something?
It made me more frustrated. I saw my team out there fighting, and I have so much respect for them for getting to the World Series, to the last game. Not to see myself in there to help, it's part of baseball. But at the same time, I was there cheering for my teammates, helping. I think we're going to (get to the World Series) this year again.
Multiple outlets have your rotation ranked as one of the top 3 in the league. What makes your staff so good?
Everyone works hard. We get better every time we get to the ballpark, and we talk a lot. When we throw our bullpens, everyone is there to learn. So that's what makes our rotation special right there. We all come together, talk about what we need to do, the little things. I think that's why we are pretty good.
Who have you learned the most from on the staff?
Every guy is different. Kluber has different pitches. Tomlin, he doesn't throw hard but he throws the ball wherever he wants. Bauer has a lot of different pitches. Salazar has an incredible arm. We'd say to Kluber, "How do you throw your curveball?" The curveball that I throw right now is from Kluber, that I learned. There's so much of a community between us and our pitching coach, Mickey Callaway, too, and it brings it all together.