PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Carlos Carrasco missed the first week-plus of Mets spring training while receiving additional heart- and cancer-related tests, a precaution due to his history of leukemia, he said Saturday.
Those exams, which turned up no issues, were the recommendation of his doctor in Cleveland, where Carrasco played his entire major-league career until this year.
"They just want to make sure I’m fine and everything," said the righthander, who added that he has received one of the COVID-19 vaccines, which allowed him greater peace of mind heading into the season. "That’s what happened, it delayed me a little bit."
He joined his new teammates Friday to significant positive reaction, he noted, including from some former opponents who said they’re glad they don’t have to face him anymore.
Although the delay will cost Carrasco his turn the first time through the rotation as the Mets begin their exhibition schedule Monday, he said there is plenty of time to catch up, so he expects to be good to go when the regular season begins.
"That’s what I found out this morning," he said. "Everything is going to be normal. I’m just going to miss maybe one start in the beginning of spring training, but that’s fine. I’d rather miss that start in spring training than during the season. But I’m gonna get back to normal."
Normal is something that has escaped Carrasco in recent seasons. In 2019, he missed half the season after being diagnosed with leukemia, but he beat it in time to pitch in September. In 2020, his season was as weird as everyone else’s, though he had a 2.91 ERA in a dozen starts.
He totaled 148 innings in those seasons, a major drop from his 180-inning average the four years before that.
"Always, I prepare my body, I prepare my arm — all that kind of stuff," Carrasco said. "So just getting ready for the season, just getting back to 180 to 200 innings."
When he pitches, Carrasco has been quietly excellent, even if he was overshadowed in the Cleveland rotation by stars such as Shane Bieber, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer.
Since establishing himself as a full-time big-leaguer in 2014, he has a 3.41 ERA.
Among 68 pitchers with at least 700 innings in those seven seasons, Carrasco ranks 16th — a little worse than Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg, a little better than Yu Darvish, Marcus Stroman and Zack Wheeler.
If you take out his 2019 — when he pitched poorly for two months, was diagnosed with cancer, beat cancer and returned as a reliever in September — he has a 3.24 ERA in that stretch.
"You’re talking about a guy that’s a potential No. 2 on any staff," manager Luis Rojas said. "He brings a lot with his repertoire and with what he can do on the mound.
"In the clubhouse, [the contributions are] at the same level. I mean, this guy is outstanding, experienced, playoff-experienced. He’s a great presence and human being. His attitude has been like he’s been here before. He’s blended in great . . . There’s value everywhere having Carlos here on the team."
Carrasco had been with Cleveland for more than 11 years until last month, when the Mets traded for him and shortstop Francisco Lindor. Getting to know new teammates is more difficult under Major League Baseball’s pandemic restrictions, but Carrasco is doing what he can.
"I can feel all the energy here is really good," he said. "It’s a good opportunity with this team. I’ve been playing this game for a long time. The only difference is the name. It’s the same baseball. New teammates. I’m really happy to be here and get the season started."
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