Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco has been slowed by inflammation in his right elbow (and, earlier, a hip flexor strain) this spring. And while an MRI confirmed that Carrasco is not dealing with any structural damage, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told reporters today that it could be a “stretch” for Carrasco to be ready for Opening Day (Twitter thread via Mandy Bell of MLB.com). Carrasco will be held back from throwing for a few more days.
It’s mixed news for Indians fans, as nothing from Antonetti’s comments suggested that Carrasco is expected to require a significant absence. But the Cleveland organization already has Mike Clevinger on the shelf as he recovers from surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear, and this winter’s slate of rule changes upped the minimum IL stint for pitchers from 10 days back to 15 days. If Carrasco is indeed placed on the injured list, that stint can still be backdated up to three days, but he’d be looking at missing at least the first dozen days of the 2020 campaign.
With Clevinger and Carrasco perhaps both sitting on the IL to begin the season, the Indians will likely give 2019 breakout righty Shane Bieber the Opening Day nod. He’d be followed by a quartet of relatively inexperienced arms: Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Adam Plutko and Logan Allen. (Civale has been bothered by a groin issue himself, though Antonetti indicated today that he’s expected to be ready for the opener.)
The Indians’ rotation is in somewhat of a transitional state — at least as pertains to the final couple of slots. Each of Bieber (controlled through 2024), Clevinger (controlled through 2022) and Carrasco (signed through 2023) should be locks for the next few years, health permitting. However, two of Civale, Plesac, Allen, Plutko and prospects Triston McKenzie and Scott Moss will likely be counted on to eventually seize permanent starting jobs. Viewed through that lens, even brief absences for the club’s top arms early in the season could serve as a continued audition for many arms the organization hopes will emerge as core pieces.