HOUSTON -- Carlos Carrasco allowed himself to show some emotion on the mound on Wednesday night. After the Indians starter struck out Evan Gattis to end the sixth inning, Carrasco gave a quick pump of the fist as he headed off the mound amidst groans from the Houston crowd.
The pitcher can be excused for letting down his guard for a moment. Carrasco has experienced a lot since the end of last season. He dealt with a worrisome heart condition in October, welcomed a baby daughter into his growing family near the end of Spring Training and signed a long-term contract with Cleveland on Tuesday.
In his first start of this season, Carrasco overpowered the Astros en route to a 2-0 victory.
"He came out with really explosive stuff," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And poise. That was really nice to see."
Following his start, during which Carrasco piled up 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 shutout innings, the pitcher said that his personal situation played a role in agreeing to sign a four-year, $22-million extension with Cleveland. The deal includes a pair of club options that could keep the right-hander with the Indians through 2020 and the deal has a potential maximum value of $48 million.
The contract looks like a bargain for the Tribe, but holding out for more money was not on Carrasco's mind. He and his wife, Karelis, have four children to take care of now after the recent birth of their daughter, Emma Victoria. On top of that, Carrasco experienced a recurrence of heart palpitations during Spring Training, though his heartbeat is now being regulated with daily medication.
"I put my family first," Carrasco said. "With my heart now, everything is good."
Shortly after the end of last season, though, his heartrate spiked to a dangerous level, convincing Carrasco to undergo a non-invasive procedure on Oct. 8 to help increase blood flow to his heart. The pitcher said the issue first came up in 2011, but neither he nor the team is concerned that it will develop into a more serious long-term problem.
"That was a little bit scary, but I think we did everything in October," Carrasco said. "I got the surgery and everything now is fine. I'm taking it easy and I take my pills. That's it. That's something in the past. I feel great now."
The Indians' investment in Carrasco shows their confidence in him and his future.
"It's safe to say that we're comfortable that he was getting the right medical treatment, and he'll be fine," Francona said. "It's not something you mess around with, but I think everybody was comfortable with knowing how it was taken care of and what he has to do. It's not really an issue. I'm not trying to make light of anything, but it doesn't really affect his pitching."
Carrasco made that clear against Houston, picking up where he left off last season. The righty scattered three hits, issued only one walk and became only the sixth Indians pitcher in the last 15 seasons to have a double-digit strikeout showing in April.
Over his final 10 starts last year, Carrasco made the most of his return to the rotation, posting a 1.30 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 11 walks in 69 innings. The right-hander adopted a more aggressive mentality on the mound, began pitching exclusively out of the stretch and finally began to look like the dominant starter Cleveland believed it acquired in the July 2008 trade that sent ace Cliff Lee to the Phillies.
"He understood how good he was," Indians closer Cody Allen said, "because he's got unbelievable stuff and that confidence, and then he was just attacking guys. He kind of found out who he was as a pitcher. He's really good. He deserves everything he's gotten, all the praise he's gotten."