Salazar eyes return as reliever for Tribe's push

Pitcher building arm strength, plays catch at up to 75 feet

Salazar eyes return as reliever for Tribe's push

CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar played catch at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon, continuing to fuel the hope that he could be ready for a postseason push for the Indians.

Salazar said Wednesday that he would return as a reliever if he is deemed ready for a potential American League Division Series. He expressed confidence in the rotation without him or injured starter Carlos Carrasco.

"I [don't] have any doubts of what we can do, even though we don't have me and Carlos," Salazar said. "The team, they have been doing a really good job with the pitchers and the position players, too. I think maybe if I'm back, or Carlos, I know that'll help a lot."

After leaving his Sept. 9 start in Minneapolis with a right forearm strain, Salazar was shut down for 10 days and given a three- to four-week timetable for his return. Carrasco is facing a longer schedule (at least six weeks) after fracturing his pitching hand on Saturday. Over the past two days, Carrasco has been sporting a soft cast on his pitching hand in Cleveland's clubhouse.

While Carrasco is likely sidelined through the playoffs, Salazar resumed playing catch on Tuesday, and he is beginning to build up his arm strength. The pitcher threw from a distance of 60 feet Tuesday before advancing to 75 feet during Wednesday's session. Over the next several days, Salazar will likely move up to 90 feet, then out to long-toss at 120 feet. Rehabbing pitchers are typically not cleared for mound workouts until that type of throwing progression is completed first.

"I don't think you're going to see him go zero to 100," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think the last few days has been to get the blood flowing again. And I'm sure some of it is going to depend on how he feels, how aggressive they get, how quickly they get aggressive. And if they need to go slow, they will. Again, the priority is to have him feeling good. If he starts to feel real good, they can speed it up."

The 26-year-old Salazar has gone 11-8 with a 3.87 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings over 25 games for the Indians this season, earning a spot on the AL All-Star team. The righty has, however, dealt with arm issues for the past four months. He missed a start with a shoulder problem in June, and he experienced elbow issues in July and August before he was shelved with the forearm injury this month.

Salazar said his recent rest has already paid dividends.

"[I'm] feeling great, taking it easy right now, throwing easy, trying to get back on track," Salazar said. "We're on it. I'm trying to get back, and I know I will. By the way I feel right now, it's good and I'm really positive about it."

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.