Carlos Carrasco pitched well in his first start for the New York Mets this season. On his way to a no-decision in the team’s first loss, Carrasco went 5.2 innings, allowed only a pair of hits, a single earned run allowed, and he struck out five.
It was a promising start to the season for Carrasco whose biggest woes in the 2021 season was how beat up he would get early on. Carrasco still did manage to surrender a run in the first inning. Fortunately, it was only a solo shot from Nelson Cruz to make his ERA crooked.
Heading into the season, there were plenty of doubts about what Cookie could give the Mets. If he pitches like this a little more consistently, they should be in good shape. It still won’t erase the one concern every Mets fan should have for him.
Durability will be the biggest challenge for Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco
Carrasco has only three seasons in his career with 150+ innings pitched. He hasn’t been the most durable of pitchers. His career is a little odder than most successful starters from his generation. It took him until his age 28 season to finally establish himself as a starting pitcher in the big leagues.
The last time Carrasco was able to stay on the field for more than 150 innings was back in 2018 when he went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA for Cleveland. In 2019, a serious health scare caused by chronic myeloid leukemia limited him to only 80 innings of work. He made 12 starts and another 11 relief appearances. Just getting on the field at all was a victory for him.
Limited in 2020 due to the pandemic, Carrasco tossed 68 innings and made another 12 starts. Then, in 2021, a preseason injury knocked him out of action until late July when he would go on to make—you guessed it—12 more starts.
The past three seasons for Carrasco have each contained 12 starts. The innings have decreased, too. From 80 in 2019 down to 68 in 2020 and finally 53.2 in his first year with the Mets. The last three seasons have included only 201.2 innings of work. In 2017, he got through exactly 200 frames.
The Mets already had a reason to be cautious with Carrasco coming off an injury. The shortened spring only adds to how carefully they should treat him. Carrasco has not been an innings eater outside of those three seasons when he was able to stay on the field.
To make matters a little more concerning, the Mets will have to be careful with Taijuan Walker, too. His case is a little bit different. He has yet to add a 30-start season on his resume. Twice he made it to 29, including last season when he seemed to run out of gas late. He already left his first start of the season early with an injury.
There’s an easy solution for managing both. The Mets need to take advantage of having a guy like Trevor Williams in their bullpen prepared for the situation. Reaching deeper into their pitching depth, David Peterson can be a key guy, too, to possibly even bump the starters back a day if needed.
This is going to be a strange year for pitchers and injuries. With far less time to amp themselves up for the season, they’ll have to adjust and be honest with how they’re feeling.
Now one start into his 2022 season, it’s important for Carrasco to pace himself. At the same time, the Mets will need to push him, too. The absence of Jacob deGrom forces Carrasco to be a more true number three starter.