Venezuelans battle as Indians face Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — Carlos Carrasco would like to be able to follow the trend set by his counterpart for Cleveland’s game against the Texas Rangers this season.

Carrasco, 30, had his 2016 season limited to 25 starts for the Indians because of a strained left hamstring and a fractured right hand.

It was the fractured right hand that ended his season in September and cost him the opportunity to pitch in the postseason for a World Series team.

The hand is healthy now but that doesn’t mean Carrasco necessarily is. He was slowed in spring training by a tender right elbow. He pitched just 11 innings because of that and missed a start for the birth of a child.

Still, Cleveland manager Terry Francona is confident in what Carrasco can do Tuesday. The right-hander has a career 1-3 record with a 5.73 ERA in seven appearances against the Rangers.

That doesn’t mean Carrasco won’t be watched closely as the Indians will try to hand the Rangers their first 0-2 start since 2007.

“I don’t know so much that he’ll be on a pitch count so much as he’s not all the way stretched out,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco. “A lot of it probably depends on how he’s pitching and how hard the innings are. If that count’s up early, that means he’s probably working pretty hard. He’s just not ready to do that multiple times.”

Carrasco will be opposed by a fellow Venezuelan in Texas left-hander Martin Perez. Perez will have no such limitations Tuesday as he’s coming off a career year.

After having his 2015 limited to 14 starts as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Perez came back with career highs in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts in 2016. Perez, who is 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA in three career appearances against Cleveland, is starting the second game of the season for the third time in the last four years for Texas.

Tuesday’s start will also come on his 26th birthday and Perez is hoping his present is building off last year.

“I feel like that,” said Perez, who started a pair of games for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in addition to his three ‘A’ game starts this spring. “I believe in myself that I can do a great job this year. Let’s do it.”

Confidence is a huge factor for Perez. When he’s struggled in the past it’s because he’s let small things in an inning lead to problems and big frames.

His mental game is stronger this year after being on the Venezuelan WBC team.

“Now I have a different mind,” Perez said. “I feel strong, and I always believe in what I can do and I never give up. I just like to compete and when I have the ball in my hands I’m the best. That’s what I think.”