DETROIT -- It is hardly an ideal situation, but the Indians have found a way to navigate around the eight-game suspension handed to pitcher Carlos Carrasco nearly two months ago.
Prior to Saturday's game against the Tigers, Cleveland placed right-hander Zach McAllister on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right middle finger and promoted Carrasco from Triple-A Columbus to start against Detroit. Carrasco makes the start in Detroit while technically appealing his suspension.
Manager Terry Francona indicated that McAllister could miss at least two to four weeks with the finger injury. McAllister flew to Cleveland earlier this week to undergo an MRI and was examined by hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham.
"The timetable is when he feels better," Francona cautioned on Saturday. "Nobody really knows. When it's better, he'll pitch. Obviously, we don't know exactly, neither does he, and neither do the doctors. But when he's good to go, we'll pitch him."
The transaction will have a two-pronged effect: McAllister can rest his sore finger, and Carrasco can hopefully put the suspension behind him.
Due to an upcoming off-day on Thursday, Carrasco can make one start before dropping his appeal and accepting the suspension. He would then be eligible to start for the Indians against the Royals on June 18, which also happens to be the same day that McAllister (whose DL stint is retroactive to Monday) would be able to be activated.
With Carrasco now starting on Saturday, sinkerballer Justin Masterson (originally slated to start on Saturday) will be pushed back one game, as will the other three starters. Masterson will pitch on Sunday against the Tigers, with Scott Kazmir (Monday), Corey Kluber (Tuesday) and Ubaldo Jimenez (Wednesday) the probable pitchers for the upcoming series against the Rangers.
"There's some things that were obviously involved," Francona said. "First and foremost, we took Zach back to Cleveland and had him looked at. We want to make sure this finger doesn't get to the point where it gets in the way of his pitching, and it's not something to play around with. So we decided that he needed to go on the DL."
The 25-year-old McAllister began experiencing irritation in the finger between his past two starts, and the issue flared during his outing against Tampa Bay on Sunday. In 4 1/3 innings, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits, no strikeouts and four walks. He was unable to throw his curveball the eay he wanted due to the injury.
Francona said that McAllister has been gripping his curveball harder this season -- possibly contributing to the injury. The team's medical staff, along with McAllister himself, do not believe that the increased use of a split-finger fastball has played a role. His only symptoms have come while throwing his breaking pitch.
Over his past three starts, McAllister has gone 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA and .349 opponents' batting average. In those outings he has logged just 14 2/3 innings, during which he has given up 22 hits and issued eight walks. He went 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA and a .236 opponents' average in his previous eight outings this season, and he is 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 11 games overall.
"We're just being cautious with it," McAllister said. "We don't want it to lead to anything major that can last any longer. So we're just being safe and getting healthy."
Carrasco, 26, has been forced to deal with a pair of suspensions this year. He began the season on the Opening Day roster with the sole purpose of serving a five-game suspension for throwing at the head of Royals designated hitter Billy Butler on June 29, 2011. He had to wait until this year to serve the punishment after missing all of last season while recovering from an injured right elbow.
Because of other rotation issues, Carrasco made his first (and only) start for the Indians on April 9, against the Yankees. Similar to the 2011 incident -- in which he threw at Butler after giving up a grand slam to Melky Cabrera -- he hit New York's Kevin Youkilis after surrendering a home run to Robinson Cano. Carrasco subsequently was dealt an eight-game ban by Major League Baseball.
The Indians sent Carrasco to Triple-A Columbus, where he has gone 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 games, including nine starts. Across 47 2/3 innings, he has piled up 50 strikeouts against 14 walks for the Clippers. He allowed nine runs (eight earned) in four innings against Indianapolis in his most recent outing, on June 1. In May he went 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA at Triple-A.
"He's done everything we could have possibly asked of him in Triple-A," general manager Chris Antonetti said recently. "He's gone out and he's really dominated almost every start out there, and he's done it efficiently, where he's been able to get hitters out and he's accumulated a lot of strikeouts and hasn't used a lot of pitches doing it. That's a challenging thing to do.
"He's using all his pitches. He's been very aggressive in attacking the strike zone. We've all seen it. He has above-average Major League stuff. When he puts it all together, he has a chance to really help our team."