Fifteen final thoughts after Danny Salazar writes another chapter in what the Indians hope is a best-seller.
1. Before the game ended, I wondered what would distress manager Terry Francona more about starting pitcher Salazar – the fact that he’s given up three home runs in 9.1 innings this year, or that he lasted just 3.2 innings against the White Sox.
2. The home-run issue hardly came up in the post-game interview, although Francona said when Salazar “made a mistake, they did some damage with them.” But in assessing the 24-year-old right-hander’s 10-strikeout performance against the White Sox, Francona said, “I’d rather see it over about seven innings.”
3. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Salazar became the first pitcher since 1900 to strike out 10 batters in fewer than four innings. The only positive Francona saw in that was “his stuff is there.” “He’s young and he’s still learning how to pitch,” Francona said. “We love him to death, but there’s still some learning to do.”
4. Salazar’s line: 3.2 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs (earned), 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, 2 home runs, 18 batters faced. “It’s an interesting linescore,” Francona said.
“He obviously had really good stuff to have that many strikeouts,” Francona said. “But because there was a lot of swing and miss and he was not hitting his spots, he was up with a lot of pitches, there were a lot of deep counts, they saw a lot of pitches. Then when he made a mistake, because they’d seen so many pitches, they did some damage with them. He left some breaking balls up, some fastballs up. Hitters get more dangerous the deeper they get in counts.”
5. Salazar called his effort “not too smart.” He said he was trying to be too aggressive with his off-speed pitches instead of just trying to get batters out. He said later in the night when he slowed down more, his changeup and slider worked better. He knew he couldn’t just rely on his fastball and had to make an adjustment. “I say not too smart because I should have figured out that earlier,” he said.
6. That comment alone seems to show maturity beyond Salazar’s 12 career starts.
7. In his first outing of the season, a 5.2-inning no decision in the April 4 home opener against the Minnesota Twins, Salazar said he struggled with his delivery. “I’ve been working on my delivery and going down. Sometimes I was feeling like I was standing up. But I was trying to get back down there,” Salazar said Thursday. But he didn’t feel like that was his biggest issue against the White Sox, it was aggressiveness at the wrong time.
8. The most positive note of all: In three games and 12.2 innings against the White Sox, Salazar has struck out 27. (He’s also given up 16 hits, 7 earned runs and walked four. That computes to a 4.97 ERA.)
9. Another good thing to see was the 1.1 innings from reliever CC Lee. In the four batters faced, he got a flyout to right, two infield pop-ups and a strikeout. “He came in with borderline electric stuff, especially from that arm slot,” Francona said. “Then he threw a good changeup to the left-hander. This kid, there’s some youth in some of these guys. But that doesn’t mean they can’t compete and excel and help us win. Sometimes you just have to be patient.”
10. Lee is 27. He has 5.2 innings of major league experience with the Tribe. But continued performances like that from Lee might spell the end of Vinnie Pestano’s career with the Indians. Pestano was sent to Triple-A Columbus Wednesday, with Lee called up.
11. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run against the White Sox. “That’s really welcome,” Francona said. Cabrera is 4 for his last 8 and still batting only .200. That’s somewhat baffling since he hit .357 in 20 spring games with a home run and 10 RBI.
12. But Cabrera struck early against White Sox left-hander John Danks (1-0, 4.15). Cabrera said he pounced on a Danks fastball for his first-inning double off the left field wall, then Danks left a cutter in the middle of the plate for his third-inning solo home run to center. “After that he made pretty good adjustments. He worked his changeup a little bit more. That’s what he does,” Cabrera said of Danks.
13. “Early in the game he made a couple mistakes and we made him pay for it,” Francona said of Danks, who earned his first victory against the Indians since April 11, 2012. “They got the lead and he settled in and kind of adding and subtracting, expanding the plate a little bit, started throwing that changeup, he’d run that cutter in on our righties.”
14. It’s important for the Indians to set the tone against the White Sox in the remainder of the three-game series. Last season the Indians went 17-2 against the White Sox, who lost 99 games in 2013.
15. I’ve got a long ways to go before I’ve seen every major league clubhouse, but White Sox visiting clubhouse manager Gabe Morell presents the most organized array of snacks I’ve viewed thus far. There is a bucket, a bin or a bowl for everything, all perfectly marked and aligned on shelves. Morell even made sure the fronts of each plastic container of cereal came to an imaginary line as we spoke briefly Thursday.