ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This was no ordinary outing for Carlos Carrasco, and everyone at Tropicana Field knew it.
The popular Cleveland Indians pitcher nicknamed Cookie made his return to the mound from leukemia Sunday and was applauded by both teams in a touching scene during Tampa Bay’s 8-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep.
Carrasco entered in the seventh inning for his first major league appearance since being diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia in June. The right-hander received a standing ovation from the crowd, and players from both sides cheered while standing in front of their respective dugouts.
“Even the other team came out. My teammates, that was great because they have supported me from Day One to now,” Carrasco said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor went to the mound and hugged an emotional Carrasco, who was activated before the game following several minor league rehab outings.
“He told me, ‘Welcome back, Cookie,’” Carrasco said. “‘This is you. This is you right here. We are behind you. Just go and throw the ball.’”
Normally a starter, Carrasco is expected to pitch in relief for the Indians as they chase a playoff spot down the stretch. He worked one inning and gave up two hits, including Travis d’Arnaud’s run-scoring single.
“It was a lot to think about,” Carrasco said. “I was trying to hold the game right there, but in the end I gave up one run. But I’m healthy and it was go to the next pitch and go from there.”
Lindor gave Carrasco the game ball from the third out of the seventh, a grounder by Joey Wendle, as the Indians headed off the field.
“Certainly, you saw the respect and the admiration that his teammates have for him,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, a former Cleveland coach. “Anytime you deal with a guy that has an illness and is able to recover and get back on the field like that, it’s pretty special.”