ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's been a long road for Carlos Carrasco, but on Sunday, he took another massive step.
After being activated from the injured list, Carrasco made his first appearance for the Indians since being diagnosed with leukemia in June. The 32-year-old came in as a reliever in the bottom of the seventh with the Tribe trailing the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1.
It was an emotional moment, and both teams as well as the crowd at Tropicana Field gave "Cookie" a standing ovation. He acknowledged them by tipping his cap, and before he took the mound, star shortstop and close friend Francisco Lindor came over and game him a big hug.
Once the action began again, Carrasco showed flashes of his top form by retiring Eric Sogard and Austin Meadows on ground outs. His fastball even touched 96 miles per hour. Unfortunately, he also gave up back-to-back hits to Tommy Pham and Travis d'Arnaud to allow another run to score before retiring the side on another grounder by Joey Wendle.
As he returned to the dugout, he received more hugs from his teammates, including a particularly long one from Jason Kipnis.
Carrasco had not appeared in a game since May 30, when he was placed on the injured list with a then-unspecified blood condition. He later confirmed it was indeed leukemia, and that he had been experiencing symptoms as early as spring training.
The loss of Carrasco has by far been the most gut-wrenching for an Indians team that has been hammered by extended trips to the injured list. But it also served as motivation, as the Tribe and the rest of baseball rallied around Carlos in his time of need. He was even honored during MLB's annual "Stand Up to Cancer" moment during the All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Carrasco made a few rehab appearances at both Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus prior to being activated Sunday when the rosters expanded to 40. Although he has made his bones as a starter, he will be used in the bullpen through the end of the season due to a lack of time to build up arm strength.
Despite Cookie's return, the Indians lost the Rays 8-2, getting swept in a pivotal series in the American League Wild Card race.