CLEVELAND: For at least a short stretch, Indians pitcher Danny Salazar will be working out of the bullpen.
Salazar has struggled this season, posting a 3-5 record and 5.50 ERA in 10 starts. The club revamped his pregame routine a few weeks ago to try to fix his first-inning issues. Now, the hope is that some time in the bullpen might be the answer. It’s a move the Indians have previously made with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer as they worked through their own issues.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Salazar will throw a side session on Monday and then be available out of the bullpen for the first time on either Wednesday or Thursday. It’s unclear how long Salazar might stay there before returning to the starting rotation.
“The idea behind it is, he’s not banished to the bullpen,” Francona said of Salazar. “We’ve done it with Carrasco, with Bauer. It allows him to focus more on like his catch game every day because he’s available to pitch every day. We’re trying to, not start from scratch, but build a baseline to build confidence.”
After Salazar gave up three runs on six hits and five walks in five innings on Saturday, Francona said Salazar was still “searching” for something. In some ways, Salazar hasn’t looked like himself.
“I don’t think he’s really confident right now,” Francona said. “You can kind of tell in his delivery. When he’s feeling good, he gets it and goes, there’s a lot of rhythm in that delivery. When he’s kind of hoping, it starts to slow down, and you can tell somebody that, but how do you make it happen? One, you can work your ass off. Two, you pay attention to your catch game, because that’s where they start to build their confidence and it kind of goes from there. So we just try to explain all that to him, and I think he understands.”
Salazar moving to the bullpen is made a bit easier because of Corey Kluber’s expected return on Thursday from the 10-day disabled list. Kluber has been rehabbing from a strained lower back.
Francona said Kluber is set to start Thursday against the Oakland Athletics and then will wait to pitch next on June 9 against the Chicago White Sox. That schedule, made possible by the Indians having two off days in early June, means the rotation can be kept intact and Kluber won’t have to bat when the club travels to Colorado to play the Rockies.
“It is not perfect having this much time off, but coming back with hitting involved and all of the other things that goes with it, I just think that we felt like it was better to go ahead and wait until Friday [June 9],” Francona said. “We have days off, we can do this, and then the goal is to get him every five days because that’s when he is at his best.”
Francona added it’s possible Salazar could receive a start during the road trip if all goes well.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.