CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar's return to the mound was contingent on the Indians reaching the World Series. Cleveland did its part this postseason and the pitcher did his, putting in the work behind the scenes that paid off in a spot on the Tribe's roster for the Fall Classic.
That news came down on Monday, when the Indians and Cubs took part in a workout at Progressive Field ahead of Game 1 of the World Series tonight. Salazar, who was officially added to the roster this morning, could not contain his smile when he told reporters that pitching coach Mickey Callaway informed him that he would be included on Cleveland's pitching staff.
What remains uncertain is what kind of role the Indians have in mind for Salazar, who is returning from a strained right forearm that ended his regular season on Sept. 9. Cleveland's planned rotation consists of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games 1-3, respectively. For Game 4, the Indians could go with Salazar or rookie lefty Ryan Merritt, or consider Kluber on short rest.
Part of the decision on Salazar's role will stem from how long he can pitch. The hard-throwing right-hander got through a three-inning simulated game with no issues on Sunday, meaning he may be able to handle 65-70 pitches (or roughly four innings), according to Callaway. Given the way Cleveland's bullpen has been used in the postseason, a four-inning start may be sufficient for the Tribe.
Consider that Cleveland's rotation has averaged just over four innings per start on games not started by Kluber in these playoffs. Thanks to the efforts of the Indians' bullpen -- led by relief ace Andrew Miller, who took home the MVP in the American League Championship Series -- the team has gone 5-0 in those games.
"We won a game when a guy went two-thirds of an inning," Indians closer Cody Allen said, referring to Bauer's abbreviated start in Game 3 of the ALCS, when the stitches holding together his lacerated finger opened.
"We beat Detroit earlier this year when Carlos Carrasco got knocked out on the second pitch of the game. It's not exactly how you draw it up, but whatever happens, happens. You just keep moving forward and try to win the baseball game."
Merritt was also informed that he will be on the World Series roster. In Game 5 of the ALCS, the rookie became an overnight sensation when he spun 4 1/3 shutout innings to help defeat the Blue Jays to put the Indians in their first World Series since 1997. Not bad for a kid who never dreamed he would be in this position.
"It's emotional, you know?" Merritt said. "If at the start of the season you told me that I was going to be on the roster when we were making the World Series, I might have called you crazy. I might have not known what to say. It's just an honor and a privilege to be able to be a part of this."
Indians manager Terry Francona is not ready to announce which pitcher might take the ball in Game 4 on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
"After the third game we'd [like to] kind of see where we are," Francona said. "We have Merritt. We have Danny. Neither one would pitch a full game, but between those two, you know, especially with Danny, it gives you a guy that made the All-Star team that we could pitch really whenever we want. So, it's another really good arm that's kind of a wild card that we think could help us."
In 25 starts this season, the 26-year-old Salazar went 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, in which he struck out 161 and walked 63. The righty made the AL All-Star team for the first time after a brilliant first half, but then was plagued by arm troubles the rest of the way. Salazar dealt with shoulder fatigue in June, had elbow issues in July and August and then had the forearm problem in September.
Over the past few weeks, Salazar has continued to build back up through a gradual throwing program. In Sunday's simulated game, he increased his velocity as the outing went, topping out at 97 mph in his third inning, according to Callaway. Salazar threw fastballs and changeups to the batters he faced, but limited his work with his slider to the bullpen.
"It's really strong," Salazar said of his arm. "I don't have any type of things bothering me. I feel really strong every time I go out there. Throwing the sim games, the rest in between innings, every time I was coming back, I was feeling really strong."
If Salazar can continue to return strong in the World Series, that could be a huge bonus for an Indians team that has had its share of rotation setbacks.
"That's a huge weapon," Kluber said. "The guy was an All-Star. He's got unbelievable stuff. That would be definitely an extra weapon to have on our pitching staff. Hopefully, with these sim games and everything, there won't be any rust and he'll be able to go out there right away and help us win."
In order to add Salazar for the Series, the Indians bumped pitcher Cody Anderson off the roster.
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.