A healthy Carlos Carrasco gives Mets' starting rotation needed depth

New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) reacts after giving up a walk against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning at Citi Field.
New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) reacts after giving up a walk against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning at Citi Field. / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

When the Mets’ season began, Carlos Carrasco was penciled in towards the back end of the rotation as a steady veteran arm that could eat innings and still get major league hitters out.

As injuries to the rest of the starters around him began to increase, so did his role on the team. But over Carrasco’s first few starts this season, he wasn’t meeting the moment and struggled mightily.

Fast forward to Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies where Carrasco pitched six innings of one-run ball and got the victory, securing a series win in the process as well.

This outing came on the heels of the 36-year-old’s last start in Chicago against the Cubs where he allowed one run over 6.2 innings, giving him two straight quality starts for a team that has desperately needed them.

“It’s been great, my last two starts,” Carrasco said. “Let’s say my first two starts were okay, my last two were really good and like I said before I’m continuing to work on myself every day to get better and that’s why I have those results and those last two games.”

The difference with Carrasco has been his elbow, which he says feels much better now than it did earlier in the season when the Mets placed the veteran on the IL with right elbow inflammation on April 18.

Despite a shaky start in his first outing back from the IL against his former club in the Cleveland Guardians, Carrasco has been one of the Mets’ better pitchers over his last two starts in a rotation that includes Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

“You can just tell his arm is moving better, he’s throwing the ball through the target instead of to it, kind of,” manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “You can tell his arm is moving freer and his tempo is better. When you’re out there and you’re not carrying a feel or your arm doesn’t feel good there’s just an uneasiness about your outing.”

Now fully healthy, Carrasco is back to doing what he did for the Mets all of last season and that is to be a stable presence at the back of the rotation, giving his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound with his array of pitches.

In fact, Wednesday may have been the best Carrasco has felt as a Met, or at least his fastball felt the best which was apparent from the first inning when he was dialing it up to 95 mph.

“It was the best. Even the first pitch when I looked up and it said 95 I said ‘okay’. I didn’t feel that way [earlier in the season], but I got it and it makes a complete difference so I can use my other pitches,” Carrasco said. “My changeup was unbelievable today. I got it for a strikeout, I got it for a ground ball, to get an almost double play. Curveball was playing really good, slider a little bit away at home plate, but I got my changeup so I’m glad that I have four pitches that I can play with.”

He added: “When my elbow was okay, I couldn’t throw [my changeup] because it hurt, but now I can throw even my curveball, start throwing more curveballs now and my changeup is really good. That’s the pitch that I use the most.”

After Kodai Senga’s gem on Tuesday, Carrasco backed him up with a great start of his own and now leaves it in the hands of Scherzer who will go for the sweep on Thursday afternoon – just how the Mets figured plenty of series would go this season.

“I [saw] what Senga did yesterday and just said ‘okay, let me go out there and do the same’,” Carrasco said. “Pretty much that’s what I want to do and now Max is just going to go out there and put some good numbers out there too.”

My, how much can change in a month, huh?

“In the beginning, my elbow was okay and now it’s back to normal, it’s feeling really good so this is the kind of pitcher I am and I just want to continue to pitch this way for the whole season,” Carrasco said.