MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Carrasco was arguably too aggressive at the start of Spring Training a year ago. He had thrown a dozen or so bullpen sessions before camp even opened and was eager to prove to the Indians that the previous year's showing was no fluke.
Carrasco did just that with his breakout performance last summer, establishing himself not only as a workhorse in Cleveland's talented rotation, but as one of the better starters in the American League. With Carrasco having little left to prove this spring, the Indians opted to put the big right-hander on a more conservative throwing program in the weeks leading up to Sunday's spring debut against the Brewers, an eventual 6-5 loss.
While two innings is not much, it was plenty for Carrasco to show that he is doing just fine.
"I felt great," Carrasco said after his start at Maryvale Baseball Park. "I think everything has worked out."
The lone blemish on Carrasco's line Sunday was an infield single by Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar to begin the first inning. The right-hander quickly erased that baserunner with a double-play groundout that was scooped up with a back-handed grab by shortstop Francisco Lindor and turned swiftly at the bag by second baseman Jason Kipnis.
Carrasco faced only six batters, recording three outs via ground balls and striking out one before calling it a day. The righty said he concentrated on locating his fastball, which will be his primary goal throughout the rest of the Cactus League slate.
"The way I threw my fastball today, that's what I'm looking for," Carrasco said. "That's what I'm working on in the bullpen, and that's what I need to do during the season. That's why we have Spring Training."
While Carrasco is not behind the rest of Cleveland's pitchers, he was on a slightly different throwing program for the first few weeks. Indians manager Terry Francona said Carrasco's personalized schedule was created after discussions with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, strength and conditioning coach Joe Kessler and other members of the training staff.
"Mick just kind of takes stock of guys when they get here," Francona said. "And we talked to Joe and how much they've thrown and things like that. I think he had thrown a couple less bullpens than he had in the past. Mickey was not really concerned about the volume of his throwing, because his arm's in such good shape. We just thought it made sense."
"They told me that and I said, 'OK, that's fine,'" Carrasco said. "They were keeping me throwing bullpens and just kind of getting ready for the games. That's what I did. That was my job."
The pitcher's task now is to continue to build toward a follow-up to his strong showing in 2015.
Last year, Carrasco went 14-12 with a 3.63 ERA in 30 starts, in which he struck out 216 and walked 43 in 183 2/3 innings. It was a continuation of the progress the right-hander showed down the stretch in '14, when he posted a 1.30 ERA in 10 starts across August and September. Prior to that strong run, Carrasco had been in Cleveland's bullpen and his future as a starter looked bleak.
Carrasco's future as a starter looks much brighter these days.
Francona said it was important that the Indians gave the pitcher another chance to prove himself.
"When you think something's in there, if you just bail on guys, you're going to make some bad mistakes," Francona said. "And, sometimes the answer ends up being, 'No,' too. ... Fortunately, like in Carlos' case, look what happened."