Indians thrilled to see Carrasco back on the hill

Righty allows 3 runs on 9 hits over 5 innings in first start off DL

Indians thrilled to see Carrasco back on the hill

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco strolled into the Indians' clubhouse at 4:28 p.m. ET on Thursday afternoon, hours before the Tribe completed a late-inning comeback to post a 5-4 victory over the Royals. The pitcher was greeted by a few teammates as he made his way to his locker, but reliever Brian Shaw welcomed Carrasco with a friendly jab.

"Pitchers' meeting at 4:30, Cookie," Shaw said. "You actually get to go to those now."

Carrasco swiftly stowed away his belongings and dashed to the meeting room two minutes later. The big right-hander later hurled the first pitch of this critical four-game series with the American League Central-leading Royals. It was the first pitch he had thrown for the Indians since April 24 -- a span of 35 games missed.

The Indians, who plan on keeping pace in the division race this summer, were thrilled to see Carrasco back on the mound again for them.

"It'll be nice to have him back and contributing," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "because he's a big, big guy for us."

Carrasco did not end up factoring into the decision in the Tribe's walk-off victory over the Royals, but Cleveland's No. 2 starter was solid enough in his return. The right-hander tossed five innings and allowed three runs on nine hits to the defending champs. He recorded two strikeouts and walked one while fighting a bit of rust. He threw 78 total pitches, including 50 strikes, falling just under the 80-pitch limit set for his comeback outing.

Even with all his experience and talent, Carrasco admitted that the start came with some jitters.

"I felt a little bit nervous," Carrasco said. "The last time was April 24, so today, facing Kansas City, they're in first place. Once I threw the first pitch, everything went away."

Thursday's outing was Carrasco's first since sustaining an injury to his left hamstring while covering on a play at first base. Prior to that, Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts. Though he didn't produce at his normal high standard, he was quite effective at various points in the game.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Francona said. "He made a couple costly mistakes. He looked like he was starting to feel it a little bit [on the last batter]."

Carrasco toyed with trouble in every inning. He gave up two hits in an eight-pitch first. The next inning, he surrendered a hit but struck out Cheslor Cuthbert on a curveball on the outer edge to avoid further trouble. He then gave up two runs in the third and one more in the fourth before a scoreless fifth to end the night.

"I felt a little bit tired the last inning," Carrasco said. "It's my first game coming back from the DL. You know what? The important thing is trying to hold them right there to three runs. What we did in the last inning was great. Great comeback."

Regardless of what happened in Carrasco's outing, the Indians were just thankful to have their frontline starter back in the fold.

"It's a big relief," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "It's a relief. That's at least 10-15 wins right there. I'm happy for him. I'm happy for the Indians. I'm happy for the fans, because he's a fun guy to watch."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.