CLEVELAND – In years past, the Indians have opted to move Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to the bullpen in an effort to fine-tune their mechanics and regain confidence on the hill.
This strategy now applies to Danny Salazar.
With Corey Kluber (lower back strain) set to start on Thursday vs. Oakland, manager Terry Francona temporarily moved Salazar to the relief corps on Sunday morning. The 27-year-old right-hander will begin his new assignment on Wednesday with the possibility of making a start on the club’s upcoming road trip.
“We’ve done it with Carrasco, with Bauer,” said Francona. “We’re trying to – not start from scratch – but build a baseline to build confidence.”
Salazar went 3-5 with a 5.50 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4.82 BB/9 and 1.89 HR/9 through 52.1 innings pitched (10 starts) in 2017. His inability to command the strike zone and show a feel for his pitches forced Francona to tinker with his starting rotation.
“Depending on how things are going, we might try to get him a start on the road trip somewhere, but we’ll see how that goes,” Francona said. “We wanted to make sure he knows he’s not on his own here. We know he has to throw the ball, but we’re not just asking him to do better. Mickey’s here and we’re all here to help. We’re going to figure it out.”
Although Salazar was not anticipating any immediate moves after his outing on Saturday, his 96th appearance in the big leagues will be the first of its kind – out of the bullpen.
“I mean that’s not in my plans,” said Salazar on Saturday night. “But I have no choice. I’d have to do it.”
Carrasco registered a 2.06 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .201 opposing batting average in 56.2 innings out of the 'pen in 2013 while Bauer recorded a 3.31 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and .246 opposing batting average in 16.1 innings out of the 'pen in 2016.
The goal is for Salazar to have similar results and find the groove that earned him a ticket to the 2016 All-Star Game.
“I think Danny was searching a little bit,” Francona said. “Maybe this way he can sit there and actually watch the game from a different vantage point. There are a lot of things that can start to push this in the right direction.”
Whether this decision makes a difference or not remains to be seen, but Salazar seems to have taken the news with a motivated attitude moving forward in the season.
“He took ownership, so it’s a good first step,” said Francona. “(I) told him to go have a good work day today and that will be a good first step. Then he’ll throw a bullpen tomorrow and we’ll get him back on the road to carving people up.”