One of the biggest stories of the year for the Cleveland Indians has been starting pitcher Danny Salazar. However, there are two different reasons why.
The first was how well the Dominican hurler started the season. Salazar came out of the gate on fire, putting forth Cy Young-esque numbers en route to an All Star nomination. The Tribe had been waiting for him to finally reach his full potential, and it sure looked like said time had finally come.
Unfortunately, nowadays Salazar is getting attention for all the wrong reasons.
He was recently placed on the 15-day DL after back-to-back rough outings, including a putrid performance against the Minnesota Twins in which he gave up six earned runs in just two innings. Salazar was given a breather to let his elbow inflammation heal, a problem which has followed him for most of the season. He was reactivated last week, with Cleveland hoping rest was all he needed to get back on track.
Said hopes were dashed quite quickly. So far, Salazar looks like just as much of a hot mess as he did before his stint on the DL, and it’s time for the Tribe to be very concerned about this.
His first appearance was over in a blink of an eye, getting removed after just one inning against the Chicago White Sox last Thursday. He walked three of the first four batters he faced, following it up by allowing a three-run double. The Indians kept him working in the bullpen after he was pulled, hoping to chip some rust off before his next appearance.
Based on last night, this strategy fell more than a little short. Salazar followed up his rough inning against the White Sox with another ugly start, getting rocked by the Oakland A’s. In just four innings, he handed out eight hits and six earned runs, putting Cleveland in a hole it couldn’t dig itself out of.
Since the second half of the year started, Salazar has given up 30 earned runs in 29 innings, hardly the clip we’re used to seeing from him. The elbow issues which have resulted in scratched starts and his not playing in the All-Star game don’t seem to have alleviated despite a two-week rest. While most of the Tribe’s other starters have managed to shake out of the early August doldrums which plagued the whole rotation, Salazar still looks completely out of sync.
It certainly makes you wonder about both how the Indians have handled him and where they go from here.
Did they rush him back too early? Again, he’s had elbow issues all year long, and it seemed lofty to assume 15 days was all he’d need to recover. If they did put him back on the mound too soon, should they sideline him again? For how long?
You also have to wonder why Salazar wasn’t given a rehab start just to get back in the groove. He looked miserable before getting deactivated, yet the Tribe had no issue putting him right back on the field as soon as his time on the DL ended. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just give him one Triple A appearance to be safe, considering the fact the team was surviving OK without him?
As for where Cleveland goes from here, it’s tough to guess. Another trip to the DL after last night wouldn’t be surprising whatsoever, but it’s difficult to assume another 15 days will do the trick. Shutting him down until the postseason is risky, too, considering he’d have zero momentum heading into the most important time of the year.
Whatever the decision is, it’s clear the Indians have a problem on their hands. One of their best pitchers hasn’t put forth a quality start in over a month, and hasn’t made it past the fourth inning in same amount of time. Salazar’s progress has been a downward spiral for a while now, and the rotation as a whole is going to suffer in a big way if the trend continues.
Salazar entered the All-Star break looking like one of the league’s best pitchers. He’s come out of it looking like an outright disaster. The Indians need to figure out how to fix this, and they’re low on time to do so.