After struggling again in another outing during his last start Thursday at Toronto, Indians young right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar was sent down to Triple-A Columbus Friday to work on things in a less intense atmosphere for the time being.
“For Danny and what was best for him…we thought sending him Triple-A and alowing him to work on what he needs to work on will benefit him there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Because right now, when he’s making mistakes, he’s paying for it. And (he’s) not getting real deep in games and it’s kinda hurting the bullpen.”
In Salazar’s place, left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett was surprisingly called up from Double-A Akron to take his spot on the roster for now. However, come Tuesday, the team will need to make another roster move to accommodate the return of right-handed starter Trevor Bauer, whom Francona confirmed Friday will replace Salazar in the rotation and start against the visiting Detroit Tigers Tuesday.
Not only was Bauer impressive in his early season spot start for the Tribe last month, he’s 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in seven games at Triple-A Columbus to date. In 46 innings, he’s struck out 44 batters, issued 14 walks and held opponents to a .216 batting average.
Salazar pitched so well in his major league debut last year and during the rest of the season with the Indians, he was later tabbed to start the Tribe’s American League Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays. But this season, he’s off to a 1-4 start with a 5.53 ERA over eight starts. In 40 2/3 innings, Salazar has allowed 25 earned runs on 49 hits – including eight home runs. He also struck out 47 batters and issued 17 walks.
“He’s kinda gotten away from locating his fastball down,” Francona said. “His breaking ball has been inconsistent – there’s been some really good ones and some that aren’t. And he’s kinda gotten away from his change up – and that was one of his best pitches.
“(At Columbus) we told him, ‘hey, we don’t care about your numbers. We want you to execute pitches, use your changeup to get confidence back in that pitch and be armed to get major league hitters out when you come back.’ He will be back, and he will be good.”
Salazar’s demotion gives the Tribe brass an opportunity to see if Crockett can become the next Cody Allen, a polished college reliever who needs little minor league time before possesing the ability to make an impact at the big league level.
This season, Crockett, 22, has limited Double-A hitters to one earned run in 15 relief appearances, compiling an ERA of 0.57 with six saves and a 17-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those statistics are even more impressive considering he was just drafted last summer in the fourth round out of the University of Virginia, and is the first member of the Tribe’s 2013 draft class to reach the major leagues.
In fact, during his season and a half of pro ball, Crockett’s ERA is a miniscule 0.45 over 36 relief appearances – having allowed just two earned runs in 40 1/3 innings, striking out 49 and walking only eight.
“It’s kinda an exciting thing for the organization,” Francona said. “At this time last year, I think he faced the University of North Carolina. Not that they’re not good, but (it’s) pretty cool…sometimes you call guys up out of necessity. Sometimes, they just knock the door down and kind of force their way.”