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Mets' Carlos Carrasco just wants to play baseball

Carlos Carrasco of Cleveland pitches against the Kansas

Carlos Carrasco of Cleveland pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Progressive Field on Sept. 9, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. Credit: TNS/Ron Schwane

Carlos Carrasco knows the dangers. He knows his 2019 diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia puts him at greater risk during this pandemic. And he well knows how quickly things can change, especially when it comes to your health.

But Carrasco knows other things, too: He knows he’ll be careful. He knows the Mets will look out for him. And he knows what his answer was last year, when Cleveland, his team at the time, tried to send him home for fear he’d contract COVID-19.

"I said no," Carrasco said Tuesday in his introductory news conference as one of the newest members of the Mets. "I just want to play. I just want to be with my teammates. So, even when I found I had leukemia, I never stopped, I never stopped playing baseball. I just wanted to play baseball. Last year, with the pandemic, I continued to play baseball."

This year will be more of the same. Carrasco spent three months out of the game when he was first diagnosed, and doesn’t remember that time away from baseball fondly. Instead, his diagnosis has sharpened his focus on the game he loves and the people he loves.

"Yes, I do" have a greater appreciation for the game, he said. "I think it’s something really important and from that day [I was diagnosed] to now, I’ve seen a lot of love from a lot of teammates, community and other teams — everyone. The appreciation for this beautiful [game of] baseball is really [deep]."

And so, he will take his precautions, but will also continue to do the things that he credits with helping him throughout his ordeal. When he first got the news, he allowed himself to think of the worst-case scenario for "10 seconds," he said. After that, he listened to his wife, who, to this day, tells him he’s OK.

"From Day 1 to even now, this morning, [my wife says] ‘You’re fine. You don’t have anything,’ " he said. "That’s what I needed to hear. And right now, I feel that I don’t have anything."

Carrasco said the experience brought him closer to his family, along with other people with cancer. While still fighting his own battle, he visited hospitals and spoke to kids and teens with similar diagnoses. Those efforts and more got him the Roberto Clemente Award in 2019, along with AL Comeback Player of the Year.

"The cancer or the pandemic never stopped me," he said. "I just take care of myself and at the same time, I continue to perform and pitch."

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