By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: The surprise winner of the Indians’ Thursday sweepstakes is Danny Salazar.
Salazar and not Trevor Bauer will start against the Blue Jays. He will make his major-league debut and then he probably will be optioned back to Columbus.
“When our [minor-league pitching] coordinators came through here a couple of weeks ago, one of the questions to them was, “Is Salazar ready to make one of these spot starts?’ ’’ manager Terry Francona said Tuesday. “Their answer was yes.”
Salazar is only 23 and has pitched just 42⅓ innings at Triple-A. He began the season at Akron, where he posted a 2-3 record and 2.67 ERA in seven starts, striking out 51 in 33⅔ innings.
Since being promoted to Columbus, Salazar has made 10 starts, compiling a 3-2 record and 3.40 ERA. Right-handed batters hit .207 against him; lefties .235. In his past three appearances, he has not given up an earned run in 13 innings.
Salazar has not gone more than 5⅓ innings in any start this season, so his pitch count will be monitored.
“He’s stretched out to 80-90 pitches, but we have to be careful, because he’s going to be all amped up for this start,” Francona said.
The plan is to limit Salazar’s first visit to the big leagues to one start.
“It will be one game,” Francona said. “We’re pretty sure about that.”
Bauer was considered the favorite to get the start against the Jays because he has made four appearances for the Tribe this season. But in his last start, he did not get out of the first inning and gave up five runs against the White Sox.
“Bauer is always a consideration,” Francona said. “We thought this time it would be in his best interests to stay where he is and work through his mechanical issues. His last outing was pretty rocky.”
Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callahan will use the four-day All-Star break to juggle the rotation, which is why Salazar will only make a single start.
“We will take into consideration how much rest guys have had, who needs rest and who doesn’t,” the manager said. “We’d like to have [Justin] Masterson pitch coming out of the break, and I think he knows that. Even if he pitches [in the All-Star Game], he’ll have three days.”
If Masterson is needed to pitch for the American League, he probably will throw only one inning.
The fact that Salazar is expected to return to Triple-A after one start indicates that Zach McAllister probably will come off the disabled list shortly after the break.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.