By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: No Indians starter will rack up 200 innings this season.
Justin Masterson would have made it if he hadn’t sustained a strained oblique and stopped pitching on Sept. 2. Even if Masterson doesn’t pitch before the end of the regular season, he has amassed 189⅓ innings, far more than anyone else on the staff.
Ubaldo Jimenez is next with 162⅔ innings, heading into Thursday night’s start against the Houston Astros, and Scott Kazmir has worked 145 innings. Corey Kluber is fourth with 136⅔, and Zach McAllister, who spent a month on the disabled list with a finger injury, is fifth with 125 innings.
Rookie phenom Danny Salazar took Masterson’s place in the rotation and has pitched 46⅔ innings in nine starts. He also threw 93 innings in stints with the Double-A Aeros and Triple-A Columbus.
No starter will pitch more than twice between now and the conclusion of the schedule, so Jimenez could throw two complete games and still come up almost 20 innings short of 200.
Manager Terry Francona has been protective of Salazar, who is only 23 and underwent elbow reconstruction surgery in 2010, and even Kazmir, who hasn’t thrown a complete season for three years.
For Francona, merely counting pitches and innings is not the be-all, end-all of determining when a pitcher has had enough work.
“The pitch count thing is a little overdone [in terms of gauging fatigue],” Francona said Thursday. “But when a guy has thrown 110 pitches, he’s probably gone through the lineup four times.
“Some guys have seen a lot of pitches. So if he’s at 110, he better still be carving it up pretty good, because we have fresh arms in the bullpen.”
Salazar has been limited to about 80 pitches in almost all of his starts. After his outing Wednesday night in Kansas City, Salazar revealed he was not on a pitch count.
“That’s not exactly true,” Francona said. “I think the organization has done a good job with Danny, keeping track of his innings. But you get to a point in the year when he’s stretched back out.
“Last night, he kept looking at his pitch count [on the scoreboard] and instead of trying to get outs, he was trying to get outs quickly. And it’s not like we were going to let him flail away and throw 150 pitches.”
You constantly hear managers and pitching coaches discuss the value of a starter who can reach 200 innings, but there is value in not climbing that long ladder. If the Tribe makes it to the playoffs, all of their starters will be relatively fresh.
It remains to be seen who qualifies for the rotation if the Indians win a wild-card spot, but arm fatigue isn’t likely to be an issue.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.