By JOSE M. ROMERO, Associated Press
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Cleveland’s entire starting rotation is healthy this spring training — unlike late last season.
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin combined to win 66 games last season, but Carrasco and Salazar got hurt in September and Bauer interrupted his October with his infamous injury sustained while playing with a drone.
“Where we’re situated with our pitching, the guys are starting to get to the point where the game’s not going too fast because they’ve got some years under their belt, but they don’t have so many where the wear and tear is showing,” manager Terry Francona said. “Kluber, you keep seeing him find ways to get better. And then Danny, Carlos, they’re still pretty young. They’re in their really good years. So we’re hoping that’s one of our strengths.”
Salazar sported a “Rotation of Domination” T-shirt after Thursday’s exhibition outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the likenesses of all five starters on the front.
“We have the best rotation right now, that’s the way I feel,” he said. “We have the best rotation not just in the American League, but in baseball.”
Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt likely will be available for spot starts, and possibly Cody Anderson. Clevinger said he was grateful to observe the starting five.
“It’s made me work twice as hard in the offseason as I normally would, just knowing what they’re bringing to the table every day, knowing what I need to do to be a part of this team and keep producing,” Clevinger said. “That was a huge role model-like experience for me to watch all of them compete.”
Salazar, an All-Star in 2016, made his second spring training start Thursday. He missed time toward the end of the regular season with a strained forearm muscle and was also dealing with elbow soreness.
“When I pitched in the World Series I was 100 percent, I just wasn’t able to go five or six innings because that takes time,” Salazar said. “Knowing that we have the same guys this year, everybody saw what we could do.”
Kluber and Tomlin are not pitching in exhibitions yet but are scheduled for simulated games on Friday. After Cleveland’s lengthy 2016, the two are to make their first exhibition appearances next week.
“Our pitchers work hard and prepare well and I feel like they’re always ready. I think that’s why we had a lot of success last year,” catcher Roberto Perez said. “If we had (Carrasco and Salazar) healthy all season, I think we’d have had a great chance to win it all. And that is great motivation for this year, to work our way back and win the World Series.”
NOTES: Salazar walked three and struck out two in two innings, allowing a run and one hit. He threw 42 pitches. “My arm is a little bit slow still, but we’ve got time to catch up,” he said. … Relievers Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw threw simulated games on Thursday.
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