BY Tony Lastoria
Special to FOXSportsOhio.comThe Indians have already assigned nine different starting pitchers to their five-man staff. Considering we are not even 20 games into the season, this constitutes a tell-tale sign of how dire the Indians starting pitching situation is at the moment.One of the starters already cycled through the rotation is right-hander Carlos Carrasco. The 26-year old opened the season on the active roster to serve a five-game suspension handed down back in August of 2011. While serving the suspension, lefty Scott Kazmir went down with an injury and it opened the door for Carrasco to get an opportunity once his suspension was over.That opportunity came on April 9th at home against the Yankees. Three and two-thirds innings, seven runs, two homers, and one bean ball aimed at the head of Kevin Youkilis later, that opportunity went up in smoke.It is a tough situation for Carlos, Indians Vice President of Player Development Ross Atkins said in a recent interview. What we have done is we have talked to him and spent a lot of time with him on really focusing on things that he can control at this point. I honestly dont think he hit Kevin Youkilis on purpose, and Carlos will tell you that. I am hopeful he didnt.Suspended once again for his headhunting ways this time for eight days Carrasco was banished to Triple-A Columbus two days later and it is there that he is trying to make things right. Not just with his performance in the box score, but his mental toughness on the mound as well.We may never really know whether or not Carrasco intentionally threw at Youkilis head on the next pitch after serving up a two-run homer to Robinson Cano. But whats done is done and now he and the Indians need to get him on track so that he can help a rotation in Cleveland that is in big need of a boost.We are putting that past us, and now we are focusing on getting Carlos to really make Triple-A his Major Leagues, Atkins said. He has got to be the best pitcher in the International League or be extremely disappointed with his results because he is that talented.Given the chance to take a deep breath and settle in, Carrasco has impressed in the early going. In two starts for Columbus, he has combined to throw 10.0 shutout innings and has allowed just two hits and one walk while piling up 12 strikeouts. Thats about as dominant a showing as one can have, and it is just more evidence that he is a Major League-ready pitcher in the minors to get his mind straight. And to learn to better control his emotions when things go awry.I think it is taking his own expectations and own standards to another level so that he can become that guy that is pitching in the middle or at the top of a rotation, Atkins said. His stuff is good enough, his athleticism is good enough, and his work ethic is good enough. Now, it is that genuine belief that he belongs and also becoming a lot more consistent with his fastball command and his effectiveness.Carrasco has been a high profile starting pitching prospect for a long time. Before the Indians picked him up from the Phillies in July of 2009 in a deal for Cliff Lee, he had been the Phillies top prospect for several years. Even then, the one negative that always stuck with him was the view of him as a pitcher lacking toughness and maturity on the mound.So far in his Indians career, Carrasco has shown some impressive stuff. He has the ability to dominate any game and at any moment because he has the repertoire to overpower a lineup. But like his time with the Phillies, he has also shown many moments where he lacks the toughness or maturity to be a high level Major League starting pitcher. At these moments, he seems to lack the toughness to battle and the maturity to overcome tough situations.Carloss transition to the big leagues has not been that smooth but I am confident that he is going to be a lot better than he has been in the Major Leagues, Atkins said. There is a lot of upside. One of the things we have talked about before with Carlos is since his elbow injury he is throwing the ball harder. He was 95-97 MPH with every pitch in his last outing, but we need to make that happen in the next opportunity he gets in the Major Leagues. This will be a good opportunity for him to challenge himself at Columbus and start to raise his own ceiling and expectations.Carrasco will not serve his suspension until he is added to the 25-man roster in Cleveland, so at the moment he is able to pitch in the minors and not miss any time. While the numbers show he is ready, the Indians are probably happy with him getting a few more starts under his belt in the minors so he can get into a groove and develop some consistency every five days he pitches.Once the Indians feel Carrasco is ready, or they have a situation arise where he has to be activated, he can be added to the 25-man roster and pitch right after if he files an appeal. Once an off day comes up in the schedule, they can just drop the appeal and have him serve the suspension and the matter will be resolved without having to finagle the roster.But the Indians will cross that suspension bridge when they get to it.For now, they are happy to have Carrasco pitching in Columbus so that he can get a rhythm going, show he is healthy, and most importantly start taking the steps to show that he has taken a clear step forward with his maturity. That mound presence and toughness are the missing ingredients to making him a very good starting pitcher in the Major Leagues for a long time.