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Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota Attendance: 15,613
Pineda set for return as Twins host Indians
Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
- The Indians took the season series with the Twins in 2018, 10-9, winning eight of the last 11 games after the Twins won six of the first eight.
- Cleveland won the AL Central last year with a 91-71 record. The Indians have won 90+ games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1999-2001. They have only ever done so in four straight seasons one time in franchise history -- six straight years from 1950-1955.
- The Twins finished second in the AL Central behind the Indians with a 78-84 record, one year after losing the AL Wild Card game. Minnesota hasn't won a playoff series in 16 consecutive seasons, the second-longest active streak in the AL behind the Mariners (17 straight).
- Corey Kluber finished third in the AL Cy Young voting after posting a 2.89 ERA with 222 strikeouts. He notched the 1400th strikeout of his career in his 199th game on September 28, 2018 -- the only other pitcher in MLB history to reach 1400 strikeouts within the first 200 games of his career is Randy Johnson, who did so in his 196th game.
- Jose Berrios has improved his ERA (3.94 in 2018), WHIP (1.14) and opponent batting average (.222) in each of the first three seasons of his career. In his last start against Cleveland, he gave up four earned runs and six walks in just 4.0 innings.
- Eddie Rosario was one of five MLB players to lead his team in hits (161), runs (87), home runs (24) and RBI (87) last season. He batted .311 with 19 home runs before the All-Star break but regressed to a .240 batting average with just five homers after the break.
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Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco is proof a pitcher can return from Tommy John surgery in his 20s and emerge as an ace-caliber starter. The Minnesota Twins will hope Michael Pineda begins following Carrasco's path Sunday afternoon, when the two pitchers oppose one another as the Twins host the Indians in a finale of a three-game season-opening series.
The Indians evened the series at a game apiece Saturday, when Greg Allen hit a tie-breaking sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win.
Carrasco (17-10, 3.38 ERA in 2018) will make his first start since signing a contract extension when he faces Pineda, who is pitching in a regular season game for the first time in almost 21 months.
Pineda suffered a partially torn right ulnar ligament in his most recent big-league outing July 5, 2017, when he gave up five runs over three innings for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays. He underwent Tommy John surgery 13 days later and signed a two-year $10 million deal with the Twins on Dec. 13, 2017.
The Twins hoped Pineda could return to a big league mound late in the 2018 season, but he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee while on a rehab assignment and never made it to Minnesota.
Remarkably, last season marked the third full big league season missed by Pineda, who turned 30 in January. He was also sidelined for all of 2012 and 2013 -- his first two years with the Yankees -- following right labrum surgery.
In four seasons with the Yankees, Pineda showed flashes of the form that made him an All-Star as a rookie with the Seattle Mariners. He had a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts in 2014 and struck out 514 batters over 509 innings with the Yankees, though he never found consistency on his way to going 31-31 with a 4.16 ERA in the Bronx.
Pineda's stuff seems as good as ever -- he was clocked at 95 mph during the Grapefruit League season -- and rookie Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is confident the right-hander will pay dividends this season.
"Honestly, I think he looks good," Baldelli told reporters. "And I think he's going to be more than ready when we break."
Carrasco is evidence that teams can be rewarded by being patient with pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander underwent the procedure in September 2011 and didn't make it back to the majors until 2013, when he posted a 6.75 ERA in 15 games (seven starts).
Carrasco was demoted to the bullpen after posting a 6.93 ERA in his first four starts in 2014, but he recorded a 2.30 ERA in 26 relief appearances before returning to the rotation and compiling a 1.30 ERA in his final 10 starts. Since the start of the 2015 season, Carrasco is 60-36 with a 3.40 ERA and 823 strikeouts in 722 innings over 119 games (117 starts).
The Indians, who signed Carrasco to a four-year deal worth $22 million with a pair of options in April 2015, extended him again in December, when Cleveland picked up his 2020 option and inked him to two-year extension through 2022 worth $24 million with a $14 million option for 2023.
"I just want to finish my career with (the Indians)," said Carrasco, who turned 32 earlier this month. "This is something special for me and my family."
Carrasco is 7-9 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) against the Twins. Pineda won his lone career appearance and start against the Indians on Aug. 5, 2016, when he allowed four runs over six innings as the Yankees earned a 13-7 victory.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019