By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
CLEVELAND: When Indians right-hander Danny Salazar returned to the Dominican Republic after his rookie season, he tasted the fruits of his labors.
His hometown of Cabrera honored its only player in the major leagues with a parade, and someone wrote a song about him.
“I was in a car and everyone was behind me, just going around the town,” Salazar said Friday before appearing at Tribe Fest at Progressive Field. “It was fun.”
But Salazar, 24, didn’t linger there too long. He left on Jan. 12 for Goodyear, Ariz., where he spent two weeks training at the team complex. He plans to return two weeks before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 11.
“I’ve been working on my shoulder, my elbow, my whole body in the offseason just to get healthy. Playing catch, long toss, working out in the gym, running a lot, too, my shoulder program,” Salazar said.
Salazar is not taking a spot in the rotation for granted, even though he began the 2013 season at Class AA Akron and finished it as the starter in the Indians’ wild-card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tribe has already lost Scott Kazmir, and Ubaldo Jimenez could also depart in free agency.
“I know there’s a spot there, but I want to earn it,” Salazar said. “I don’t want to think I’m going to go there and take everything easy because I know I’m maybe going to start in the big leagues.”
Catcher Yan Gomes heard the buzz about Salazar, especially from the 65 batters he struck out.
“The little comments of guys like, ‘Come on, man, get this guy out of here,’ ” Gomes said. “You’re talking about a guy who’s bringing 100 with some nasty off-speed.”
On Aug. 7 against the Detroit Tigers, Salazar became the only player in the majors to strike out Miguel Cabrera three times in a game. In his fourth at-bat, Cabrera homered.
“He’s one of the guys who made a pretty incredible comment,” Gomes said of Cabrera, who won his second consecutive American League Most Valuable Player award. “I know after the game he was like, ‘Wow.’ When you’re impressing a guy like Miguel Cabrera, you know you’ve got something good going.”
Outfielder Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the June draft, said he’s jumped from 184 pounds to 210.
That’s because he’s finally able to lift weights after a procedure on his elbow his senior year at Loganville High School in Georgia prevented him from doing so for two years.
Asked what the weight will do, he said: “I think it’s going to help me put more behind the ball. Make me look a little more physical at the plate and not like a 5-foot-10 redhead.”
Compliment for Gomes
Gomes said he takes it as a compliment that Carlos Santana volunteered to play third base in winter ball, a move that would help clear the way for Gomes to catch 120 to 130 games this season.
“He wants to help every way he can,” Gomes said of Santana. “That situation is his situation. He’s going to be a huge part of the team. I’m going to take it for what I’ve got behind the plate, try to lead our staff.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.