"He's going to throw sides and try to get more aggressive as he goes," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Game 1 at Progressive Field. "The biggest thing he's trying to do is get 100 percent healthy. If and when that happens, then we'll decide what the next step should be."
Salazar exited his start for the Indians on Sept. 9 with a right forearm strain that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. When Cleveland later lost Carlos Carrasco to a fractured right hand, the team's postseason rotation was whittled down to Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin.
Over the final week of the season, Salazar ramped up his throwing with the hope of being ready in time to join the ALDS bullpen. Cleveland decided that the right-hander was not fully healthy and elected to send him to Arizona to keep training. It remains most likely that Salazar would return as a reliever, though Francona would not speculate about his possible role in the event that the Indians advance and the pitcher is ready.
"We're trying to get him healthy. That's the No. 1 thing," Francona reiterated. "When he's 100 percent healthy, we'll figure out where it goes."
Other items of note from Thursday
• Francona chose to only carry one left-hander (relief ace Andrew Miller) in his ALDS bullpen, though that was partially out of circumstance. The manager noted prior to Game 1 that lefty Kyle Crockett tweaked his back a few days ago and was deemed unavailable for the first round of the postseason.
"Just because we don't have somebody here that's your typical lefty specialist guy out there, we'll find a way," Miller said. "We have righties that can get lefties out and lefties that can get righties out. We'll be all right."
• Francona opted to carry three catchers, including Yan Gomes (non-displaced fracture in his right wrist), on the ALDS roster. Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez were expected to be included, but Gomes convinced the club in the final week of the regular season that he can catch and hit in limited doses.
"Roberto is going to catch. Yan's only got two at-bats," Francona said. "That wouldn't be fair. But, [carrying three catchers] allows us a chance to maybe ... you get a certain amount of chances a game, if that's our opportunity to pinch-run or pinch-hit, we know we have somebody who can go in and catch and throw."
• Francona noted that pitchers Ryan Merritt, Joe Colon and Shawn Armstrong have joined Salazar at the team's Arizona complex to keep throwing and stay ready as insurance. Infielder Erik Gonzalez is still with the team in Cleveland, but he will head to Arizona when the Indians travel to Boston ahead of Game 3 on Sunday.
• As part of the pregame festivities for Game 1, the Indians planned on honoring members of their player development department. The team brought all of its scouts and player development staff to Cleveland to recognize them for the role they played in building this year's AL Central championship roster.