By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
MINNEAPOLIS: The next wave of minor-league pitchers is prepping now in the upper levels of the Indians’ farm system waiting to win a spot on the big-league roster.
It has been awhile since the group of pitching prospects could be described as a wave rather than a trickle, with the Tribe system having been almost barren of legitimate major-league hopefuls during a 10-year period.
But things have changed the past few years. There are at least three starters who might crack the rotation at the outset of 2014 or become options some time during next season. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are in the big leagues now, but neither is assured of making the club next spring.
Trevor Bauer remains in Triple-A Columbus, tinkering with his mechanics that he chose to overhaul in November. The project remains ongoing.
Did Tribe officials know that Bauer was effecting a major change in his delivery when they traded for him in December?
“We knew when he came to spring training,” said Ross Atkins, vice president for player development. “If you put the stuff he’s doing in front of the smartest pitching guys, they would say there’s nothing wrong with it.”
On the other hand, Bauer still is in Triple-A, where he has compiled a 6-5 record and 3.72 ERA in 19 starts. He also has made three starts for the Tribe, posting a 1-2 record and a 5.29 ERA. His downfall at the big level has been command, with Bauer walking 16 in 17 innings.
“I think his velocity might be down a little because of the delivery,” Atkins said.
Bauer is only 22, so there’s no rush to promote him, and for a change, the Indians don’t have an urgent need for starters.
“With Trevor, you have to look at the big picture,’’ Atkins said.
In three big-league starts, Salazar has, at times, been overpowering. His only problem so far is giving up four home runs in 17⅔ innings.
But he has a penchant for throwing strikes. In his last minor-league start before being summoned to the majors, he threw 50 pitches, 40 strikes.
“You look at guys in pro ball, some of them transition quickly, others take a little longer,” Atkins said. “He’s within reach of expectations. For him to get to where he should be, he needs to know he belongs, not just believe he belongs.”
Carrasco started Wednesday after being called up to throw long relief for a couple of days until a busy group of relievers got their legs under them. The start was to give Scott Kazmir extra time between starts, but Carrasco’s immediate future is unclear, particularly after giving up four runs and 10 hits in 4⅓ innings.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.