By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: If the Indians tell you that Danny Salazar is one of the brighter pitching prospects in the farm system, they should know. He’s been wearing Tribe colors since he was 16.
At least a couple of dozen kids go through the organization’s academy in the Dominican Republic every year. Precious few make it out of the country and into the minor leagues, let alone reach the big leagues.
So Salazar already had beaten the odds before he was called up from Columbus to start this afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays.
“They told me two days ago after our game,” Salazar said Wednesday. “I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say when they told me.”
Salazar, 23, started the season in Akron, where he posted a 2-3 record and 2.67 ERA in seven starts. He was promoted to Triple-A, where he has made 10 starts, compiling a 3-2 record and 3.40 ERA. Right-handed batters hit .207 against him; lefties hit .235.
He gave up no earned runs in his past three appearances, a total of 13 innings. So does 42⅓ innings at Triple-A prepare a young pitcher for the majors?
“I’m ready,” Salazar said. “I’ve been waiting for this. I was excited when I got called up to Triple-A. That meant I’m getting there step by step.”
Manager Terry Francona views Salazar’s first big-league start as another step in his development rather than a culmination of the journey.
“You only get one first game, but that doesn’t dictate his career by any means,” Francona said. “It’s fun to see how they act and how they throw. This is another step and a big one. Hopefully, he can help us get a win.”
Salazar doesn’t know if he’ll be nervous when he takes the mound.
“I’m going to try not to think about anything,” he said, “just go out and do my job.”
Francona and his coaches will help by attempting to normalize the experience for Salazar.
“Getting him up here the day before was one thing we did,” the manager said. “We also try to keep things as normal as possible, because nothing is normal about making your major-league debut.”
Like most Dominican youngsters with aspirations to pitch in the big leagues, Salazar’s idol was Pedro Martinez. But he turned the page as an adult.
“Now it’s Justin Verlander because of the way he pitches and the way he keeps calm on the mound,” Salazar said. “To be able to pitch against him, that would be a great game for me.”