CLEVELAND — Danny Salazar hasn't been on the mound in a major-league game since October 2017. On Thursday, that streak of more than 650 days will come to an end.

Salazar, who has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery and dealing with myriad shoulder and arm issues since being named an All-Star in 2016, is slated to start Thursday's game against the Houston Astros in Cleveland.

According to manager Terry Francona, Salazar will start the game as a "modified opener." He's been stretched out to 70 pitches, and the idea will be for him to throw a few innings. Adam Plutko will be ready to enter the game after Salazar, particularly in the event that he only throws an inning or two.

"So [he] will kinda build, hopefully build into the game and build into the season," Francona said of Salazar. "And what we’ll do is have Plutko ready to be behind him ... now, if Danny goes far enough into the game, we’ll see what the score is and we’ll adjust, but the idea is to have Plutko ready if it’s an earlier exit rather than late."

For much of the past two years, Salazar has been trapped in the desert, unable to progress past a certain point throwing on one of the team's back fields in Goodyear, Arizona. Repeatedly, he'd reach a particular level in his rehab and would suffer a setback and be thrown back to square one. He hasn't yet quite shown the electric stuff he had during his All-Star 2016 season, but he's been able to throw with confidence, which for a long time was the biggest hurdle.

“You know, he’s certainly, he’s not throwing the velocity with which he did two years ago, but he’s had a good breaking ball and a good split-change and I think he sat at 92-ish," Francona said. "The reports were generally pretty good. I think the biggest thing was that Danny felt really good and felt that he was ready to pitch. That’s probably the biggest thing."

Zach Plesac is scheduled to start Wednesday's game. With Monday's off day, the Indians can shuffle the rotation a bit and insert Salazar on Thursday without altering the other four to a severe degree.

Kluber getting closer

Indians ace Corey Kluber is still a ways away from returning to the rotation in Cleveland, but he is nearing the ability to return to the mound in a game situation.

Kluber, according to Francona, is slated to throw a simulated game on Saturday using hitters from either Lake County or Lake Mahoning. If all goes well, it's possible his next outing will be as a rehab assignment.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.