GOODYEAR, Ariz. – In the midst of the spring training grind, the Angels-Indians game Tuesday provided an inspirational moment.
Carlos Carrasco made his first start for Cleveland since last May — before he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia. He missed three months while undergoing treatment, but made good on his promise to return before the end of last season and pitched 15 innings in relief in September.
"It was emotional, just getting to this point. I feel happy," Carrasco said after pitching two innings in Arizona. “I think everything's come out pretty good, I'm really excited to start again.”
He wasn't the only one who was happy about it.
"Awesome. Special," said Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. "It's a blessing to have him on the field."
"He's been pitching for a long time and he knows what he needs to do to get ready," said Sandy Leon, who caught him on Tuesday.
Carrasco allowed three hits and two runs against a Los Angeles lineup highlighted by Mike Trout, but Carrasco threw mostly strikes and used all his pitches. His Cactus League debut was delayed a few days due to a strained right hip flexor but he reported no difficulties with that Tuesday.
"I actually thought he was pretty good," manager Terry Francona said.
Carrasco finished 2019 on a high note by just being able to pitch again. But his 6-7 record and 5.29 ERA, mostly before being sidelined, reflected the fatigue he felt before his diagnosis.
That's far in the past, especially after going out on the mound again.
"I feel great. Really strong. That's what I'm looking forward to the rest of the season," Carrasco said.
Francona said before the game that Carrasco looks normal to him. "The hope would be that we could treat him like Carlos Carrasco and not have to worry about other things, that's the goal. His goal and our goal," he said.
In his return to action last year, Carrasco was greeted with a standing ovation, from fans and players alike, in a road game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Everybody cares about him,” Francona said. "We'd just like to see him put it all together because we think what's in there, he can be a pretty special pitcher."
Carrasco was a reliable rotation pitcher for Cleveland before being sidelined last season. He averaged 15 wins and 180 innings per season with a 3.40 ERA from 2015 to 2018
"That's what I want. That's what I've been working for. This is a new year. Just trying to bring back 2016, '17, '18," he said.
While a spring start was nice, pitching again in Cleveland is what Carrasco is really looking forward to doing.
“It's going to be unbelievable," he said. "I can't wait for that.”