GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Down the stretch last season, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco gave the Indians one of baseball's most dominant duos. Cleveland will begin this year with that pair of right-handers once again in the first and second slots of the rotation.
Carrasco was back in camp with the Indians on Wednesday morning, following a trip to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter, Emma Victoria. The brief hiatus from Spring Training will not alter the schedule for Carrasco, who is scheduled to make his final Cactus League start on Friday before prepping for his April 8 outing against the Astros.
Pitching behind Kluber again was Carrasco's hope all along.
"That's what I was looking for from the beginning of Spring Training," Carrasco said. "They've given me that opportunity and I'm glad I have that. ... I'm going to follow Kluber, so I'll have something in mind. That's what I did last year and that's what I wanted for all the guys, so they can follow us, too.
"We can have a good season -- like we did the last half of the season last year."
In the second half last year, Cleveland's rotation ranked first in the American League (second in the Majors) with a 2.95 ERA as a group. Combined, Kluber and Carrasco turned in a 1.75 ERA with 170 strikeouts and only 27 walks in their final 20 starts (10 each) of the regular season.
For the first series of the season in Houston, Cleveland will send Kluber (Monday), Carrasco and Trevor Bauer (April 9) to the mound against the Astros. Right-hander Zach McAllister is slated to take the ball for the Tribe's home opener on April 10 against the Tigers. Cleveland's fifth starter, lefty TJ House, is the probable pitcher for April 11, followed by Kluber on April 12.
According to Fangraphs.com, the Indians' rotation projects as the top staff in the AL heading into this season.
Manager Terry Francona does not waste much energy on such predictions.
"Fangraphs doesn't throw pitches," Francona said. "It's hard, because we don't have the track record that some of these other guys have. Until you do, you have to go out and do it for a full year. Doing it for a full year is harder than doing it for a half-year. That doesn't mean we don't have confidence in our guys, but I don't think you go out and make proclamations. You just go out and do it."
Having Kluber and Carrasco at the top is a good start.
"That gave us probably two of the hotter pitchers in the game [last year]," Francona said. "You don't just push a button and have that happen again. That's in there, but they have to get on a roll and then stay on the roll, which I think they can."