Salazar atop list of ALDS roster decisions

Salazar atop list of ALDS roster decisions

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have a bevy of decisions to make for their American League Division Series roster, but Danny Salazar represents one of the biggest pieces in the puzzle. The right-hander offers an overpowering option as a starter or reliever, but his injuries and inconsistency this season introduce risk to the equation.

"Danny is a big thing we need to figure out," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Friday's game against the White Sox. "We can't forget what he was able to do the other day. That was there. That was real. Do we keep lengthening him out? Do we maybe put him in the bullpen? Those are all things we're talking about."

The other day was Wednesday, when Salazar faced the Twins -- a potential ALDS opponent -- and was brilliant while working with a limited pitch count. The righty averaged 96.4 mph on his fastball, piled up nine strikeouts, generated 16 swinging strikes, issued just one walk and allowed only one hit in 4 2/3 innings. It was an outing that pulled Salazar off the ALDS roster bubble and back into the discussion.

Francona on Salazar, bullpen

As things currently stand, Cleveland's top three starters for the ALDS presented by Doosan will be Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. The team has not announced a rotation order, but Kluber is a virtual lock for Game 1 on Thursday. Carrasco is scheduled to throw a three-inning simulated game during Tuesday's workout, putting him in line to potentially be the Game 3 starter on the road, where he has a 2.65 ERA this year. That would make Bauer the Game 2 starter.

Francona noted that the Indians will carry four starters, meaning that last spot will go to either veteran Josh Tomlin or Salazar. Mike Clevinger -- a reliable starter all season -- has been moved to the bullpen to give the Indians another multi-inning option. There is always the chance that Salazar joins the relief corps as well. First, the Indians need to determine how and when Salazar will get some more game action.

"We're trying to work through that," Francona said. "Do we have a sim game for him? Do we have him available Sunday in the bullpen? We're working through that right now."

Worth noting

• Left fielder Michael Brantley (right ankle ligament injury) did more running, worked through outfield drills and took part in batting practice on the field before Friday's game at Progressive Field. Francona was non-committal on whether Brantley might be activated from the disabled list to appear in a game this weekend.

"The good part of it is, he's really getting better," Francona said. "You can even tell in his demeanor. Where it goes, we don't know, but we're excited that he's starting to feel better."

Brantley closes in on comeback

• Francona did not sound as optimistic about outfielder Brandon Guyer's chances of getting back on a field soon. The manager said the medical and training staffs are "putting a plan in place right now" for Guyer's rehab schedule. Guyer has been out since Sept. 15 with a left wrist injury and is still feeling discomfort, per Francona.

• Left-hander Ryan Merritt, who started for the Indians in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series last year and has a 1.74 ERA in five outings for Cleveland this season, is also scheduled to throw in a simulated game on Tuesday.

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.