MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have lost a key member of their rotation, but they have gained a critical piece of their offense.
Prior to Monday's game against the Twins, Cleveland placed right-hander Carlos Carrasco on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, which could keep him sidelined for four to six weeks. The Indians also activated left fielder Michael Brantley from the DL, following his comeback from offseason surgery on his right shoulder.
"It's very tough anytime a good teammate goes down, especially a competitor like that," Brantley said. "We have to make sure we keep pulling for him. Everybody is talking to him to make sure he's doing all right. But, it's the next man up, and we've got to keep pushing forward as a team."
Following Sunday's 6-3 win over Detroit, Carrasco traveled back to Cleveland to be evaluated by Dr. Mark Schickendantz. The pitcher underwent an MRI exam on Monday and was diagnosed with a moderate strain of the hamstring. Considering how Carrasco looked on the ill-fated play that caused the injury on Sunday, Monday's update was on the positive side of the spectrum.
"Missing him, whether it's a month or two, it's not fun," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But, now it'll be like [the front office] made a trade for a really good pitcher maybe in June. ... He'll come back firing and that'll give us a big lift. So, yeah, I think it was [good news], because it could've been season ending."
Carrasco injured his leg in the third inning of the Tribe's win over the Tigers while covering first base on a grounder off the bat of Andrew Romine. While receiving the throw from first baseman Carlos Santana, Carrasco pulled up in pain and tumbled to the dirt. The big right-hander had to be helped off the field by a pair of Cleveland's team trainers.
Thank you to everyone for the well wishes!
I don't like being hurt but I will work hard to come back soon and help my teammates!
Losing Carrasco is a big blow for the Indians, who are relying heavily on the strength of their rotation in an attempt to contend for the postseason. Through four starts this season, the 29-year-old Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA, 20 strikeouts and five walks in 22 innings.
The strong start to this season was a continuation of the breakout showing Carrasco had in 2015, when he won 14 games, piled up 216 strikeouts and turned in a 3.63 ERA over 30 outings (183 2/3 innings). Over the 2014-16 campaigns, the righty has gone 24-19 with a 3.13 ERA and 376 punchouts in 339 2/3 innings.
Given that Cleveland has off-days on Thursday and May 2, the team could use a four-man rotation through May 6. Francona said the Indians will transition right-hander Trevor Bauer back to the starting staff after he began the year in the bullpen, but the manager said the rotation's order after the series in Minnesota is still being worked out.
Bauer logged 3 1/3 innings in relief of Carrasco on Sunday and has a 4.76 ERA through 11 1/3 innings (all in relief) this season.
"We knew that, if he was to come back to the rotation," Francona said, "he'd be able to do it a lot easier than anybody else. And I think he kind of proved that [Sunday]. He threw 64 pitches and didn't tick down at all."
Cleveland added Brantley back to the mix after he completed a Minor League rehab assignment, which included playing consecutive games with Triple-A Columbus on Friday and Saturday. Francona and head athletic trainer James Quinlan met with the outfielder prior to Monday's game to be certain that he was ready to rejoin the active roster.
While Brantley was out of the starting lineup Monday, he is slated to play on Tuesday and Wednesday. Asked if he tried to talk his way into Monday's starting lineup, Brantley cracked a smile.
"Of course I did," Brantley said. "But, at the same time, it's whatever it takes to help the team at this time."
Brantley hit .310 with 15 home runs, 45 doubles and 84 RBIs in 137 games last season, but injured his right shoulder on a diving catch attempt on Sept. 22 against the Twins at Target Field. That necessitated surgery to fix a labral tear, which was operated on by Dr. Craig Morgan on Nov. 9 in Wilmington, Del. The initial timetable for return was estimated at five to six months, meaning Brantley achieved the early end of that projection.
"It will be really good for us," Francona said of having Brantley back. "Not only is he one of the better hitters in the game, but he's kind of one of the heart and soul of this team. He's a really good teammate. He's a really good player. He's a really good influence. It'll be really good to have him."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Losing Carrasco for four to six weeks is a significant blow to fantasy owners who drafted the right-hander as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. The 29-year-old opened this season in stellar fashion (2.45 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), and there's no reason to expect a downturn upon his return, given that his injury is not arm-related. Those seeking a Carrasco replacement can consider starters such as J.A. Happ, Drew Pomeranz or Rich Hill. Owners in deep leagues can take a look at Josh Tomlin, Ross Stripling or Nick Tropeano.
Brantley's fantasy owners just got a big boost, as the 28-year-old has posted a tremendous .319/.382/.494 slash line and an average of 19 steals per season since the outset of 2014. Brantley may not immediately show peak form after a long layoff from shoulder surgery, but he warrants a lineup spot in almost all formats now -- even if he's less than 100 percent. Once he gets a few games under his belt, the All-Star-caliber bat could be a top-10 fantasy outfielder.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.