NEW YORK -- Indians manager Terry Francona needed some convincing to put Carlos Carrasco back into the rotation a year ago. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway and former bullpen coach Kevin Cash helped persuade the manager to give the big right-hander another shot.
Sitting in the visiting manager's office at Yankee Stadium -- where Carrasco made his return to starting last August -- Francona smiled on Friday night. In a 7-3 victory over New York, Carrasco struck out 11, worked into the seventh inning and displayed just how far he has come in one year's time.
Since his move back into the starting rotation, Carrasco has emerged as one of baseball's top arms. His performance over the final two months last season convinced Cleveland to lock him up with a long-term extension before this season began. His showing this year convinced the Indians not to trade Carrasco at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, even though teams came calling with offers.
On the mound at Yankee Stadium, Carrasco created an assortment of silly swings from New York's potent lineup. The lone setback he encountered came in the fourth inning, when Carlos Beltran doubled and later scored on a single by Greg Bird. That marked the first run allowed by Carrasco in his career in New York, following a string of 15 shutout frames that extended back to an outing in 2011.
Carrasco enjoys pitching on the big New York stage.
"Yes," he said with a laugh.
With his showing in the Bronx, Carrasco improved to 12-9 on the year with a 3.53 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 158 innings, in which he has issued only 32 walks. That showing follows his 10-start tear through August and September last year, when he spun a 1.30 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 11 walks over 69 innings. That was enough to cement his place on the staff as the Tribe planned for this year.
That two-month run began on Aug. 10 at Yankee Stadium, where he pieced together five shutout innings after spending the previous three months in the bullpen.
"We were talking about that when we came in here," Francona said. "He threw, I think, five innings maybe, and it was probably longer than we thought he would go."
More to the point, Cleveland was not sure where Carrasco would go from there.
Heading into Friday's start, Carrasco ranked 16th in the Majors with a 2.90 ERA, dating back to Aug. 10 last season. Over that same time period, which included 220 1/3 innings, the right-hander ranked third in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.53), fifth in opponents' on-base percentage (.258) and baserunners per nine innings (9.07), sixth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.71), WHIP (0.98) and strikeouts (240), and seventh in opponents' OPS (.590).
Before his move back to the rotation, Carrasco went 0-12 with an 8.09 ERA in 17 starts, dating back to 2011.
Did Carrasco expect to reach the heights he has since last August?
"To be honest, no," said Carrasco, who has a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts. "I've just put in hard work from then to now, and it's paid off. They gave me the opportunity to get back into the rotation that day, and I think I figured [out] the way to pitch the last two months last year."