Jesse Pantuosco

Spring Training Daily

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ST Daily: Crisis Averted

Friday, March 23, 2018


The Indians were given quite a scare when Carlos Carrasco was struck by a line drive in his start Wednesday against the Royals. But fear not, for Terry Francona comes bearing good news.

 

“He was fine last night,” the Indians manager confirmed on Thursday. Francona went on to explain that Carrasco was already at 71 pitches when he took a line drive off his left foot and probably wouldn’t have gone much longer anyway. Phew.

 

What a relief—am I right, Tribe fans? We’ve seen this movie before. Flash back to 2016 when Carrasco couldn’t get out of the way of a line drive (guess he must have forgotten Patches O’Houlihan’s five D’s of dodgeball) hit by Ian Kinsler. Carrasco wound up breaking his hand and missed Cleveland’s entire postseason run. The Indians did fine without him—they won the American League pennant before falling to the Cubs in a thrilling, seven-game World Series. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference but I’m sure if the Tribe could do it over, they would have swapped out Josh Tomlin (two World Series starts) for Carrasco in a heartbeat.

 

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Wednesday proved that Carrasco’s dodgeball skills haven’t improved much since 2016, but the Indians have to be ecstatic that his injury wasn’t more serious. Carrasco and his bruised foot should be just fine for Cleveland’s season-opening series against the Mariners next week. Obviously, two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is still the alpha in Cleveland’s starting rotation but Carrasco was nearly as good last year, matching Kluber’s team-leading (edit: major-league leading) 18 wins while also setting career-highs in strikeouts (226) and innings pitched (200).

 

It’s true that Carrasco reaped the benefits of Cleveland’s high-powered offense—only Robbie Ray and Jon Lester received more run support among big league hurlers last year. But let’s not forget that the hard-throwing right-hander (I’m not kidding about that part … his average fastball clocked in at 94.3 mph last season) also ranked fifth in K to walk ratio (4.91) and eighth in WHIP (1.10).  

 

In fantasy, the big four of Clayton Kershaw (who I was lucky enough to draft in a league last night), Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Kluber stand tall above the rest. But Carrasco is certainly deserving of second-tier status along with Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Noah Syndergaard. While many would classify 2017 as Carrasco’s breakout season, the reality is, he’s been doing this for years now. The last time Carrasco finished with an ERA higher than four was all the way back in 2013. That was three Fast and Furious movies ago. Consistency, strikeouts, wins, innings—the only thing the 31-year-old seems to struggle with is evading line drives. Luckily most fantasy leagues don’t keep track of that statistic.

 

In other rotation news, Danny Salazar advanced to throwing off a mound on Thursday. The right-hander has been slow to recover from rotator cuff inflammation but is finally trending in the right direction. Salazar’s 2017 campaign wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered. He slumped to a career-worst 4.28 ERA and was demoted to the bullpen for a stretch. But even during a down year, Salazar still contributed an astounding 12.67 K/9, which would have ranked second in the majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify. When healthy, he’ll serve as the Tribe’s fourth or fifth starter but it will be at least a few more weeks until the Indians deem the right-hander game-ready. In the meantime, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin will hold down the back end of Cleveland’s starting rotation. Tomlin will likely be the odd man out once Salazar returns but that will be a bridge for the Tribe to cross later.

 

The Indians occupy an interesting space in the current baseball hierarchy. Cleveland led the AL with 102 wins a year ago, yet most prognosticators are predicting either the Yankees or Astros to win the pennant. The Indians’ first-round exit last year was certainly a letdown and could be why such skepticism exists. But keep in mind that most of the pieces that led Cleveland to the World Series two years ago are still intact. And that team didn’t include rising star Bradley Zimmer or Francisco Mejia, the game’s top catching prospect. My advice: watch out for the Tribe.

 

Bundy Draws Opening Day Assignment

 

It may not look like it on the East Coast with all the snow on the ground, but the MLB regular season is just days away. That means Dylan Bundy is open for business. The right-hander will be on display next Thursday in Baltimore’s season opener against the Twins. Nothing about Bundy jumped off the page last year (13-9, 4.28 ERA) but manager Buck Showalter is probably correct in his assessment that he’s the best Baltimore has right now. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement and years of pitching mediocrity have taught us never to get too attached to any hurler that calls Camden Yards home.

 

But for Bundy this IS a big deal. It’s probably gotten swept under the rug with so many other narratives taking center stage, but Bundy’s unusual path to Baltimore is worth revisiting. A transcendent high school player out of Oklahoma, Bundy seemed destined for big league success when he arrived in Baltimore as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The right-hander predictably breezed through the minor leagues, making his Orioles debut just a year after being drafted. But then the injury bug hit. Tommy John surgery cost Bundy all of 2013 and most of the year after. Then the following season a shoulder issue limited Bundy to just eight starts, all of them at Double-A Bowie. At that point, most of the league had forgotten about Bundy and the few who hadn’t probably assumed his big-league dream was over.

 

But in 2016, the right-hander parlayed an excellent spring training into an Opening Day roster spot and he’s never looked back. The Orioles mostly employed Bundy as a reliever that year before finally taking off the training wheels in 2017. Bundy’s first full year as a starter was full of peaks and valleys but mostly, the good outweighed the bad. Two years ago, Bundy was just happy to be back after a 1,290-day gap between major league appearances. Now the Orioles are asking him to be their ace. Soon we’ll see if he’s up for the task.

 

AL Quick Hits: Jake Odorizzi has been tapped as Minnesota’s Opening Day starter. He’ll be followed in the rotation by Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn with Phil Hughes working in long relief until the Twins need a fifth starter … The Indians released Mike Napoli on Thursday. The veteran slugger struggled to a .208 average this spring but could return to Cleveland on a minor league deal if he fails to generate interest elsewhere … Rajai Davis has made the Indians’ Opening Day roster. Davis spent last year with the A’s and Red Sox but famously hit a game-tying two-run homer in Game 7 of the World Series while playing for Cleveland in 2016 … Bradley Zimmer returned to Grapefruit League action Thursday after missing time with a strained left groin. He went hitless in three at-bats in a loss to San Diego … Tim Lincecum was expected to make his Cactus League debut Friday against the Padres. Instead, he’s been scratched due to a blister on his right middle finger. Already off to a late start after signing on March 6, the Rangers right-hander is a long shot for Opening Day … Tim Beckham left Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox with a minor groin injury. Beckham won’t play Friday but manager Buck Showalter hopes to have him back before the Orioles leave Florida on Sunday … Paul Blackburn will be shut down for at least 10 days while he recovers from a strained forearm. Luckily, the right-hander’s MRI cleared him of any structural damage … Parker Bridwell led all American League rookies with 10 wins last season but still failed to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster. He’s been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake along with 2B Kaleb Cowart, INF Nolan Fontana, C Juan Graterol and RHP Nick TropeanoDavid Phelps will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Monday. The operation will be performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews … Nelson Cruz returned to Cactus League action on Thursday after missing time with a strained right quad. He went 0-for-2 with a walk in the Mariners’ win over Texas.

 

NL Quick Hits: Steven Souza has been diagnosed with a strained right pectoral muscle and will begin the year on the disabled list. The 28-year-old suffered the injury on a diving play Wednesday against the Giants … Wade Miley will be out 2-4 weeks after suffering a torn left groin in Wednesday’s Cactus League start against the Athletics. The left-hander had been hoping to nail down one of the Brewers’ final rotation spots. Teammate Boone Logan injured himself in the same game, bowing out with a strained left triceps. Barring a miraculous recovery, he’ll open the year on the 10-day disabled list … Michael Conforto will make his Grapefruit League debut as a DH Friday against the Cardinals. Conforto has missed most of camp while recovering from shoulder surgery but hit for the cycle in a minor league game on Thursday. Conforto was expected to miss the entire opening month but now he’s trending toward a mid-April return … Rafael Montero will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his throwing elbow. The Mets right-hander pitched to an underwhelming 5.52 ERA over 34 major league appearances including 18 starts last season … Jeff Samardzija received an MRI after injuring his shoulder in a minor league game on Wednesday and has been diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle. With Samardzija headed to the disabled list for the first time in his career, Derek Holland will likely fill his place in the Giants’ starting rotation … The Reds claimed Kennys Vargas off waivers on Thursday. The 27-year-old first baseman was waived by the Twins earlier this week. With All-Star Joey Votto occupying first base, Vargas will probably be limited to a pinch-hitting role in Cincinnati … Cardinals president John Mozeliak suggested the team may open the year without a set closer. If St. Louis doesn’t add All-Star closer Greg Holland, who remains unsigned, save opportunities will likely be shared between Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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