Indians trying to get Salazar right again

Indians trying to get Salazar right again

OAKLAND -- It was not that long ago that Danny Salazar had a legitimate case for starting the All-Star Game for the American League. Right now, the Indians would probably have second thoughts about handing him the ball if the season were on the line.

Fortunately for Cleveland, the club has a bit of a cushion atop the American League Central and there is still ample time to get Salazar back on track before the Tribe potentially punches its ticket to October. In the wake of a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the A's on Tuesday night, though, there was no getting around the reality of Salazar's situation.

"We need Danny to be better," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

The way Salazar has pitched in his past two starts, the righty sure looks like a Minor League rehab stint could have helped ease his electric arm back into the swing of things. There is no turning back now, though, and Cleveland is doing all it can to get Salazar back to where he was in the first half.

Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway have attempted to balance increasing Salazar's workload with winning, and the early results have been subpar. In his return from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the righty lasted only one inning against the White Sox before retreating to the bullpen to up his pitch count. The A's tagged Salazar for six runs on eight hits in four-plus innings. He walked three and struck out two.

In a span of seven starts, Salazar's season ERA has jumped from 2.22 to 3.90.

"It's tough," Callaway said. "Obviously, it's a tough assignment for Danny not to be able to go on a [Minor League] rehab start, getting comfortable throwing the ball over the plate again. So, we're trying to do the best we can with the time we had and the time we have in-between starts to get him ready. Four days isn't a lot of time to make things totally change, but hopefully, slowly, he'll get there."

The feedback from Francona, Callaway and Salazar is that health is not the issue now.

"My arm feels good. My body feels good," Salazar said.

Back in early June, the Indians skipped Salazar once in the rotation due to shoulder fatigue and he responded well, going 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA that month. Before the All-Star Game, Salazar was scratched from the AL's active roster due to concerns about his elbow. That problem flared in a two-inning outing on Aug. 1, prompting Cleveland to place him on the 15-day DL.

Over his past four starts, which includes two outings before the DL stint and the two following his time on the shelf, Salazar has a 15.55 ERA in 11 innings combined. In that small, bloated sample, the right-hander has nearly as many walks (10) as strikeouts (11) and he has piled up 254 pitches. Salazar has thrown 114 pitches (65 strikes) in five innings since being activated.

Against the A's, Francona waited until after Salazar allowed a leadoff double in the fifth to turn to the bullpen.

"You don't want to just kill the bullpen," Francona said. "So, I do think letting him pitch a little bit is good for him."

Callaway cited that as the only true positive to come from Tuesday's outing.

"He did get stretched out," Callaway said. "So, he can throw more pitches his next outing. He was up in the zone. He wasn't able to get ahead when he needed to. He wasn't able to execute a pitch when he wanted to. It was a rough night for him."

The pitching coach added Salazar needs to take advantage of his side days and improve his routines to take the next step forward.

"He's got to shore those things up," Callaway said.

Salazar said that is the plan.

"I've just got to keep working," said the pitcher. "I don't want to make any excuses. I'm watching the videos. I'm doing things the way I always do it. It might be my arm is a little bit too lazy. What I need to do is be aggressive. I know I'll get it."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for 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.