CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Danny Salazar threw 64 pitches on Wednesday, potentially the final start of his season.
If there was a question of who would be the Indians’ fourth starter in the playoffs, Salazar did a nice job of muddying up those waters. The righty went 4 2/3 innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out nine.
“I’m not sure it makes the decision tough,” Manager Terry Francona said. “I think what it does, is it gives us options to do things. I don’t ever want guys to not do well so, ‘Oh man, it makes your decision easy.’ We want our guys to play well, all of them, whoever it is.”
The fact that the conversation was turned to options instead of anything being solidified pretty much says that there was no decision to be made. Josh Tomlin will be the fourth starter. Anything past that was a decision on Salazar’s inclusion on the playoff roster, or so it seemed.
It would also lead one to believe that Salazar just is not ready physically to start a playoff game. It would seem that if a coaching staff did not want a starter to throw more than 65 pitches, he would not be the ideal candidate to start one of the biggest games of the season.
Francona admitted that he is trying to ‘work through some things,’ while also trying to win, and Salazar helped with both.
“I just want to be in a spot for the playoffs,” Salazar said. “If it’s in the starting rotation, that’s fine. If it’s in the bullpen, that’s fine. I just want to play and help my team win.”
Salazar is at his best when using his changeup as a high rate, something which requires the establishment of his upper-90s fastball. On Wednesday, the 27-year old came out firing with the fastball, throwing it seven times on the way to a 10-pitch inning.
The changeup was used on just 12 of his 64 pitches, but garnered six swinging strikes and one called. Salazar picked up six of his nine Ks on his four-seamer, two on the changeup and one on the slider.
“That was really, really encouraging,” Francona said. “He worked ahead. He had a good off-speed, whether it was a changeup or breaking ball. And had dominant stuff. That was exciting to see.”
Salazar had not gone 4 2/3 innings since August 20th, a six-run precursor to a disaster of an outing against the White Sox where he allowed four earned in just 2/3. Since then, the righty has been finding innings out of the bullpen.
“Two of the starts didn’t work as I was expecting, but I was feeling good and I have the confidence that I just need to keep working so I could bring my ball down,” Salazar said. “Now you can see the results.”
As of now, it seems that Salazar will be a middle reliever to begin the playoffs, with Tomlin in that final spot. Clevinger would be the first option to stretch the game in an abbreviated start, but if someone were the waiver before that fourth start, the team would have two viable options for the role.