When the Cardinals released their 2015 minor league coaching assignments back in December, the pitching coach job with the Dominican Summer League Cardinals was open.
That is no longer the case.
Previously held for the last seven seasons by Bill Villanueva, the new pitching coach at Johnson City, the DSL Cards pitching instructor for 2015 is “Johnny” Carrara, a first-time staffer with the Cardinals organization.
|Carrara in 2005|
Baseball fans may know him better as Giovanni Carrara, a Major League reliever from 1995-2006.
The 47-year-old native of Venezuela first signed with the Blue Jays at the advanced age of 22 in 1990. That began a pitching odyssey over the next 16 years that included stops with at least nine different organizations, including two of them three separate times – the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Carrara’s MLB career began slowly with the 1995 Jays, with him never pitching in as many as 20 games in a season until becoming a regular bullpen member of the 2001 Dodgers. He had pitched in Japan in 1998 and missed the 1999 season.
Starting with 2001 through 2006, Carrara spent five of six seasons with the Dodgers, interrupted by a year with the Seattle Mariners (2003). However, it was never easy. He spent considerable parts of 2003, 2004 and 2006 bouncing between Triple-A and the majors.
Carrara knows adversity, having been released at least six times, declared free agency at least five other times, was claimed off waivers once, and sent to the minors countless times.
In aggregate over 10 major league seasons, Carrara logged a 4.69 ERA in 472 1/3 innings over 313 games. Though he finished 72 of those games, he earned just four career saves to go with a won-loss mark of 29-18. In his career, Carrara struck out 6.4 batters per nine innings and walked 3.8.
After leaving the Dodgers for the final time after the 2006 season, Carrara kept pitching. He played in winter ball for Lara in the Venezuelan League through 2009 and competed in Italy from 2007-2009. He retired as an active player in 2010 at the age of 42.
In his new role with the Cardinals. Carrera inherits a Dominican Summer League pitching staff that is mostly made up of teenagers. Some have been signed to their first contracts for the 2015 season, but the core will be returnees from the 2014 group that finished in the middle of the DSL pack statistically. (To see the entire DSL Cardinals roster, up to date and correct, click here.)
The 2014 staff logged an aggregate ERA of 3.54, placing them 19th in the 36-team league. They struggled to throw the ball past their opponents with regularity as their strikeout total of 494 was 29th. The staff was very stingy with free passes, however, logging the eighth fewest walks at 234, which aided their showing in baserunners allowed with a WHIP of 1.39, 20th in the league.
Overall, the 2014 DSL Cards limped home at 22-48 (.314), their worst record since the Cards joined the rookie-level league in 2008. They were 28 ½ games out of first place and finished in ninth place in their 10-team division.
Perhaps new coach Carrara can help alter that trajectory. He spent much of the spring with the rest of the DSL staff assisting with minor league spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida, getting to know his new organization.
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