Tribe hopes Salazar finds consistency in 'pen

Tribe hopes Salazar finds consistency in 'pen

CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar is not the first Indians starter to have a stint in the bullpen. Within Cleveland's current rotation, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger have each spent time as relievers. Carrasco, specifically, turned his career around after his relief experience.

"Carlos Carrasco is probably the greatest example," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Tuesday's game against the A's.

After his tour in the Tribe 'pen three years ago, Carrasco shortened his pregame routine, began pitching exclusively out of the stretch and adopted a far more aggressive approach on the mound. Those were lessons learned as a reliever that translated well to his return to starting.

While every pitcher is different, the Indians are hoping that Salazar -- who will be available in relief as early as Wednesday -- can turn his trip to the bullpen into a positive. The right-hander boasts a high-powered fastball and one of baseball's elite offspeed pitches (split-change), but the command issues have been too much for Cleveland to handle at the moment.

The move to the bullpen can give Salazar time to work through some of his issues, while also allowing the Indians to keep Clevinger in the rotation upon Corey Kluber's return from the disabled list on Thursday.

"I don't think he has a ton of confidence going right now," Francona said. "OK. How do you build confidence? Your catch game, your work ethic, your paying attention to detail."

Back in 2014, Carrasco was sent to the 'pen after going 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts of the season. Over his next 26 relief appearances, the righty turned in a 2.30 ERA in 43 innings. Carrasco then transitioned back to the rotation, posting a 1.30 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 11 walks in 69 innings (10 starts) down the stretch.

The Indians were more patient with Salazar this year, giving the righty 10 starts before making the decision to put him in the bullpen. Entering Tuesday, Salazar led qualified Major League starters with 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings, but he also had a 5.50 ERA, while ranking 86th (out of 91 pitchers) and 89th, respectively, in walk percentage (11.9) and home run-to-fly ball ratio (22.9).

In a bullpen session on Monday, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway worked with Salazar getting focused quickly in a simulated runners-on situation.

"They treated it like he was coming into a game with men on base," Francona explained. "So, he started out of the stretch, and then they said, 'OK, the inning's over.' Then, he went to his windup. When they got to a point where he felt like he was ready to enter a game, they stopped it. I don't think Mickey wanted him throwing all day.

"I think they all kind of felt pretty good about it. His intensity, what he was trying to do, it worked out pretty well. That was probably the first step."

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 Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.