Indians’ Carrasco looks forward to first game in Cleveland

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              Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Carrasco is making his first appearance since May when he was diagnosed with leukemia. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Carlos Carrasco has never been so happy to be home.

Carrasco pitched an inning for Cleveland on Sunday at Tampa Bay, his first major league appearance since being diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia in June.

The Indians right-hander admitted his whole body was shaking when he ran from the bullpen to the mound for the seventh inning, but he knows his first appearance in front of the hometown fans will be even more emotional.

Carrasco is hoping that happens this week at Progressive Field when the Indians host the Chicago White Sox in a four-game series.

“Coming back here at home, playing here so it’s going to be way, way different than yesterday,” he said before Monday night’s game. “I’m looking forward to getting on the mound here so bad.”

Carrasco said he never had any negative thoughts when he learned of the extent of his illness and credited his wife, Karelis, for helping him stay positive.

“I just thought how can I get back to the mound,” he said. “I never think anything bad. I always think good thoughts.”

Carrasco said he lost five to seven pounds while undergoing treatments. He spent time with his teammates in the clubhouse and began working out at Progressive Field in the weeks before his comeback.

“He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think at times he tried to hide that. We tried to explain to him that sometimes that’s what you’ve got friends for, to lean on. We’re here for you.”

Carrasco underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and had a non-invasive heart procedure in 2014.

“The thing that I learned is whatever happens, happens for a reason,” he said. “The leukemia made me get closer to the people that need help. I can feel those type of people, kids who have the same (condition) that I have. Those kind of kids, I never forget them.”

Carrasco, a key member of Cleveland’s rotation for several years, will pitch in the bullpen the rest of the season. He entered Sunday’s game with the Indians trailing 4-1 and allowed a run, but his fastball was in the mid-90s mph.

Carrasco, who is 4-6 with a 5.05 ERA in 13 appearances with the Indians, pitched five innings over four minor league rehab assignments before being activated.

“We had talked about the first couple outings trying to get him in games where it’s not bases loaded or a tie game,” Francona said. “He doesn’t have a ton of innings yet. But the idea is trying to get him in enough where he can help us win and doing it the right way, not overdoing it.”