NEW YORK -- The last time Carlos Carrasco was inside Yankee Stadium, the Indians pitcher was in the midst of one of the strongest stretches of his career. A little more than a year ago, Carrasco spun seven shutout innings in an impressive display against the Yankees.
On Tuesday, Carrasco was back at the Stadium, testing his surgically repaired right arm during a 60-pitch bullpen session. For Carrasco, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, that June 13 taming of the Bombers last year feels like ancient history.
"I'll be excited to play again," Carrasco said. "It's a big difference right now. I just do rehab and I think about how one year ago I played with the team. It's a big difference, but that's part of my life. I just do my rehab, and hopefully I'll come back this year."
If everything goes according to plan, the 25-year-old Carrasco will indeed return to Minor League games before the end of this season. Indians manager Manny Acta said, however, that Carrasco is not in Cleveland's plans until 2013.
"It's encouraging to see him throw in the bullpen," Acta said. "Man, I guess doctors do wonders nowadays. He was very upbeat himself. He feels good. We feel good. I just talked to him and told him to be patient and just continue to follow the rehab program. We're looking forward to seeing him next year competing up here."
Last season, Carrasco went 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 starts for the Indians, but he posted a 7.92 ERA in the six starts leading up to the elbow injury on Aug. 3. Prior to that brutal six-outing stretch, the right-hander had fashioned a 0.98 ERA over five June starts, including the strong effort in the Bronx.
Carrasco's mound session on Tuesday marked the 14th such workout in his throwing progression. He is currently limited to throwing only fastballs but noted that he should be able to resume mixing in changeups within the next few weeks. Carrasco said he hopes to begin a Minor League rehab in two months.
On Monday, Carrasco had a meeting in New York with Dr. David Altchek, who performed the surgery on the pitcher last Sept. 21. The exam went well and left Carrasco optimistic about his chances of making a successful comeback.
"I want to," Carrasco said. "It depends on my rehab. You never know. We'll see. Right now, everything is OK. We'll see what happens in two months."
Contract altered, Hernandez eager to rejoin Tribe
NEW YORK -- The Indians are still unclear about when Roberto Hernandez might be able to return to the United States, but the ballclub is beginning to sound more optimistic that the pitcher could rejoin the team in the near future.
"He's anxious to come up here and be part of it," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Tuesday. "He wins and loses with us, even if he's far away. And we are expecting him to come up here sooner rather than later."
Hernandez -- arrested on Jan. 19 in the Dominican Republic for using the false name Fausto Carmona -- remains in his home country, awaiting a visa from the U.S. State Department. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said the organization has cooperated fully with the government during the process.
Antonetti said he spoke on Tuesday with Stephen Payne, a visa expert and lobbyist hired by Hernandez's representatives, about the ongoing process. The GM also noted that Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have reached out to the State Department.
"We've done everything we can," Antonetti said. "We've petitioned to the State Department and have given them all the information that they wanted on Roberto and his history with us, and some of the things he's done since the information came out."
Antonetti also expressed confidence that Hernandez might not face a suspension from Major League Baseball upon returning to the United States. Last month, Marlins pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo -- mired for eight months in a similar false-identity situation -- received an eight-week suspension from MLB.
The difference between the cases is Hernandez (53-66 with a 4.59 ERA over six seasons with the Tribe) drastically reworked his contract with Cleveland.
"Our understanding at this point," Antonetti said, "is that, because he's restructured his contract, there won't be an additional suspension required. That could change, but that's the guidance we've been given at this point. There just aren't any absolutes."
For now, Hernandez continues to work out and throw simulated games at the Indians' academy in the D.R. Cleveland has monitored the right-hander's progress via video and has organized a throwing program that should have him ready to contribute shortly after he earns a visa. Hernandez would likely need to log a few Minor League starts before rejoining the Indians' rotation.
"It's certainly a possibility that he could be back in the United States by the All-Star break," Antonetti said. "But I can't sit here and say with certainty that that's going to happen. Until he's actually granted his visa and permitted access to the United State, no one really knows for sure."
Tribe GM: Perez 'believes in the team'
NEW YORK -- Indians closer Chris Perez did not pick up a copy of the New York Times on Tuesday morning, but it did not take long for him to realize that quotes attributed to him had drawn a reaction from fans back in Cleveland.
"I didn't know about it until I checked Twitter," Perez said. "I was surprised at the reaction."
In the article, Perez expanded on his comments earlier this season, taking on Cleveland fans for rooting against NBA superstar LeBron James and not being overly critical of the NFL's Browns during their current playoff drought.
"Their whole thing is, 'We want a winner,'" Perez said. "Well, why do you support the Browns? They don't win. They've never won. They left. You guys blindly support them. I don't understand it. It's a double standard, and I don't know why."
Asked about Perez's outspoken nature, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said the closer means well.
"Chris' comments were coming from the right place," Antonetti said. "He believes in the team. He believes that we have a competitive team that's out there and plays the game the right way in a beautiful ballpark where people come to enjoy baseball. He just wants as many people to come out and enjoy it as possible.
"He probably interacts with our fans as much as anyone. I wouldn't look to limit what Chris says. Sometimes I'd prefer he'd choose his words a little more carefully at times, but other than that, I think it's coming from the right place."
Perez applauded Cleveland fans for their recent support of the Indians.
"The last three or four homestands have been great," Perez said. "We've had a really good response. It just got ... out of proportion. It wasn't me trying to do it again. That's definitely not what I wanted, especially because it's been great. It has been better."
Quote to note
"Cleveland fans just took it the wrong way, because it was in the New York Times. It makes it looks like it's a brand new [topic], but it's not. It's the same stuff I was talking about earlier [this season]. When I get asked a question, I'm not going to just give the politically correct response unless it's something I really can't talk about."
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list due to a right knee injury, is scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday. Hafner will serve as the DH against Norfolk, then have a day off from game action on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Indians named Columbus infielder/outfielder Russ Canzler the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for the period of June 17-24. During that stretch, Canzler hit .348 (8-for-23) with two homers, one double and seven RBIs. On the year, Canzler is hitting .274 with nine homers, 16 doubles, 33 runs scored and 38 RBIs at Triple-A.
The Indians released Columbus utility player Andy LaRoche on Tuesday. LaRoche, who signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland over the offseason, hit .234 with five home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs in 46 games for Columbus.