CLEVELAND – Carlos Carrasco’s smile remains bright, his mood and outlook as positive as ever.
Outwardly, the Indians’ right-hander doesn’t seem different. He’s determined not to let cancer change him.
“I never put anything bad on my mind,” Carrasco said. “Everything’s good. So I don’t feel different. I just push myself to work more and get stronger.”
Diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last month, the 32-year-old Carrasco spoke to media members Thursday for the first time since his life took a dramatic, unexpected turn. As he dealt with so many unknowns, Carrasco said he’s never once asked “why me” after learning of his condition.
“I’m not that kind of person,” he said. “If it’s happened, it’s for a reason.”
Carrasco said he first knew something was wrong after he took his annual physical at the start of spring training in Arizona. But after more blood work was done, doctors at The Cleveland Clinic told him he had a treatable form of leukemia but that he could continue pitching as long as he felt up to it.
He’s barely slowed down.
Carrasco has been throwing bullpen sessions, doing some recent workouts at Lake County (A) while Cleveland hosted the All-Star Game.
While he everything feels normal when he’s on the mound, Carrasco doesn’t know if he’ll be able to pitch for the Indians again this season.
“Man, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just here. I’m just going to take it day by day. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer, but I’m glad to be here around my teammates.”
Carrasco said he’s been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from teammates, coaches and Cleveland’s fans.
During his interview session, manager Terry Francona stood just a few away from the popular starter, another sign of the club’s devotion.
On Tuesday night, Carrasco felt all of baseball’s love.
During the fifth inning of the All-Star Game, Carrasco walked on the field for Major League Baseball’s “Stand Up To Cancer” salute along with Francona and All-Star teammates Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Shane Bieber and Brad Hand.
As the group stood in the third-base coach’s box, Carrasco held a sign that read: “I Stand” while the other Indians held placards that said: “Cookie,” Carrasco’s nickname.
When the group was shown on the ballpark’s giant scoreboard, the crowd erupted with loud cheers.
Francona described the powerful moment as perfect.
“Holy smokes,” he said. “You talk about putting an exclamation point on it. It was incredible.”
Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger, who was sitting in one of the dugout suites, said seeing Carrasco embraced like that was special.
“As hard as it was too watch, it was really moving,” Clevinger said. “It was good to see him feel that. I know he knew how much support was out there, but to really feel that not just from the league, but feel it from across America, behind the scenes even when you looked at Twitter afterward.
“That was big for him and definitely big for us.”
When he arrives each day at Progressive Field, Carrasco said he’s quickly greeted with hugs from teammates.
Shortly after the Indians learned about his condition, a meeting was held without him at which Lindor, Santana and others pledged to win for their ailing teammate.
“Everyone from the team, if I could show you, I had like 300, maybe 500 texts from them every day, asking how did I feel,” Carrasco said. “They are special to me. They feel like home. They feel like family. They always send me a text, even the guys that played here before, they send me a text every day. It feels great.”
Carrasco chose not to disclose the type of medical treatment he’s receiving.
In the meantime, the Indians are working off Carrasco and being mindful not to rush him.
“There isn’t a plan and I don’t mean that like we don’t care,” Francona said. “But the idea is for him to do as much as he can – or as much as he can tolerate – because it will be good for him. Other than that, we’re not pushing him. We’re just trying to be supportive.”
And as his teammates have backed him, Carrasco has returned the love.
For Monday’s All-Star Home Run Derby, Carrasco wore a customized jersey with the names Santana, Lindor, Bieber and Hand on the back.
“The way they’ve been supporting me, I just came to the game to support them, too,” he said. “Why not?”
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