The conventional thinking going into today's game was that Scot Kazmir had the fifth starter's spot all but won. Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, the other potential contenders for the the fifth spot, were optioned down this week, and most of the talk regarding Carrasco was that he could use some time in Columbus to refine his command in the wake of his September 2011 Tommy John surgery. I think the only reason Carrasco is still in major-league camp is because of something unrelated to his pitching (see below).
I think Kazmir still has the rotation spot in hand, but after today's game, I don't think it's 100% certain. A lot of his breaking pitches today were up in the strike zone, and although he muddled through five innings, he didn't get many style points while doing so. He allowed 13 hits to the Mariners, who had most of their regulars in the lineup. Probably the biggest key wasn't necessarily the results, but his stuff. He did strike out five batters, and his fastballs seemed to be in the high-80s/low-90s range judging by the hitter's swings, though I don't know that for sure.
This being a road game, the Indians only had a couple of their regulars/projected 25-man roster in the lineup. And with all of the demotions over the past couple weeks, that meant some of the lower-level minor-leaguers were taken out of minor-league camp and put in the lineup. If you like to follow Indians prospects, today's game was a fun one to watch, for virtually every top position player prospect appeared in today's game. Francisco Lindor (BA #1), Tyler Naquin (#3) and Jose Ramirez (#23) started and played the entire game, and Ronny Rodriguez (#8), Jordan Henry, and Delvi Cid made appearances as well.
Today was the first time I saw Jose Ramirez in game action; while his size (5'9") will work against, there's a place in MLB for small guys who had hit; he's basically the size of Dustin Pedroia, and judging by what's been written about him, has a lot of the same character traits (hard worker, great teammate). Francisco Lindor had three hits on the day, the last one a line-drive triple off Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Not bad for someone who turned 19 in November. I don't think Lindor is going to be held back by the Indians as long as he's hitting; he's pretty much a major-league shortstop right now, and if his bat catches up to his glove, he could theoretically be in Akron by the end of the season.
Getting back to the fifth starter battle (assuming there is one), Jordan Bastian tweeted this after the game:
Francona said he & Antonetti will sit down Sunday to discuss 5th starter race: Kazmir vs Carrasco. Need clarity on Carrasco's suspension.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 23, 2013
This was the suspension earned way back in 2011 when Carrasco threw at Billy Butler in what turned out to be his second-to-last appearance before going on the DL. I think one of the reasons Carrasco hasn't been optioned yet is so that he can serve his suspension to begin the season, then go down to the minors. That way when he comes up to stay, he doesn't have that hanging over his head. And because you can replace a player who has been suspended, the Indians could have their full complement of 25 players on Opening Day even with Carrasco being suspended.