Salazar faces childhood hero one more time

Indians righty happy to pitch to Big Papi, who goes 3-for-3 off him

Salazar faces childhood hero one more time

BOSTON -- All Danny Salazar wanted was one more chance to face Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. During his childhood in the Dominican Republic, before he had dreams of pitching in the big leagues, Salazar rooted for Boston and followed Big Papi's blossoming career closely.

Salazar got his wish and a fan in the first row of Fenway Park's right-field stands got a souvenir. In a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, the Indians starter allowed three run-scoring hits to Ortiz, who belted the 514th home run of his career off Salazar in the fifth inning.

Was Salazar still happy that he got to face Ortiz before he retired?

"Yes, yes," Salazar said. "He's a great guy, a great player. I have respect for him."

Ortiz's solo home run

Six weeks ago, Salazar stood in the home clubhouse at Progressive Field, expressing disappointment over a rainout against Boston. The right-hander was supposed to start against the Red Sox on April 7, but the weather pushed his season debut back a day for a game against the White Sox. Salazar knew that, depending on the schedule, he might have missed his opportunity to lock horns with one of the heroes of his youth.

Things aligned just right for Salazar's wish to come true Sunday.

Unfortunately for the pitcher, not much else went right.

Within a 40-pitch first, Salazar gave up an RBI single to Ortiz, who pulled a changeup through the hole and into right field for the hit. One inning later, Ortiz whacked a 3-2 fastball -- clocked at 97 mph -- to right-center field, where it bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double. In the fifth, Ortiz led off for Boston and crushed a 1-0 heater over the bullpens for his blast.

"I wish he would've retired last year," Indians manager Terry Francona quipped. "He's kind of on a different level right now. It looks like he's playing softball. He doesn't swing at balls. And, the ones he swings at, man. Even the ones he fouls off, you kind of take a deep breath. We tried not to pitch to him whenever we could."

Following Ortiz's home run, Salazar lasted two more batters, exiting the game after 4 1/3 innings and 109 pitches. The right-hander allowed four runs on eight hits, ending with six strikeouts and three walks in the loss, which boosted his season ERA to 2.32. The 40 pitches he logged in the first marked the most he had thrown in a single frame in his career.

It could have been a forgettable start, but Salazar will remember this one.

Ortiz saw to that.

"I was wondering, 'Why is he retiring?'" Salazar said. "I know he has way more to give."

Told of Salazar's admiration for him, Ortiz paid the pitcher a compliment.

"I know Salazar really well," Ortiz said. "He's one of the true pitchers coming out of the Dominican. I got to meet him last year and I saw him this offseason, too. He has a great future and an unbelievable arm. He has great stuff. Those guys grew up watching us, so I totally understand what he was trying to say."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.