It was announced on Thursday that the Indians were calling up right-hander Danny Salazar for a spot start on Saturday against the Twins, but the plan now calls for him to remain in the rotation while Zach McAllister will move to the bullpen.
Salazar was expected to land a rotation spot out of spring training after Gavin Floyd went down with another elbow injury, but he struggled during Cactus League action and was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. However, after striking out seven and walking none over six scoreless innings in his lone start in the minors, the Indians are ready to give him another shot.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that they received positive reports about Salazar’s slider from his Triple-A start, which he feels could be the key to a breakout:
“If he can do that,” Callaway said, “throw the ball over the plate with some command, and throw that secondary pitch for a strike to set up that changeup, he’s going to be good to go.”
Salazar was great down the stretch as a rookie in 2013, but he had mixed results last year while posting a 4.25 ERA over 20 starts. Still, he has averaged 10.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in the majors and has obvious frontline starter potential. Can’t blame the Indians for going with upside.
McAllister was knocked around for five runs over four innings in his lone start last week. He was throwing in the high-90s with his fastball out of the bullpen last night (thanks, Brooks Baseball), so this could be a good change for him.
Thanks to his mid-90s fastball and fantastic strikeout totals Danny Salazar was a popular breakout pick for 2015, but after a rough start Thursday the Indians have decided to send the 25-year-old right-hander back to Triple-A.
Cleveland has solid rotation depth, but Salazar has a 3.89 ERA in 30 career starts while racking up 185 strikeouts in 162 innings. His control can be spotty, but there isn’t much more for him to prove in the minors and he’s already performed like a useful mid-rotation starter in the majors. And even while struggling this spring he posted a 15/5 K/BB ratio in 11 innings.
Salazar figures to be back in Cleveland soon enough and the demotion likely had a lot to do with him having one minor-league option remaining, so the Indians could trim him from the rotation competition without losing someone else useful on waivers. Still, he’s probably one of the Indians’ five best starters and he definitely has one of the five highest upside among Indians starters. Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin are now competing for the fifth starter gig.
The Indians have secured some additional rotation depth, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the club has added veteran left-hander Bruce Chen on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He would have a $1 million base salary if he makes the big club and could make $1 million more with incentives.
Chen has pitched for 10 teams in the majors, but he has spent the last six seasons with the Royals. The 37-year-old dealt with a back injury last season while posting a 7.45 ERA over seven starts and six relief appearances. He was designated for assignment in late August and ultimately given his release in September.
With Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd, Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Josh Tomlin, and Zach McAllister, the Indians already have more starters than available rotation spots, so Chen will mostly function as insurance.
Carlos Carrasco was bumped to the Indians’ bullpen earlier this season, but Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports he’s getting another shot in the starting rotation this Sunday against the Yankees.
Carrasco, 27, struggled to the tune of a 6.95 ERA over four starts before being yanked from the rotation in late April. He has found a home in the bullpen since, posting a 2.30 ERA and 39/9 K/BB ratio over 43 innings, but the Indians have an opening for a starter with Justin Masterson in St. Louis, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister in the minors, and Josh Tomlin in the bullpen.
Carrasco has an ugly 5.66 ERA over his first 44 starts in the majors, so perhaps the bullpen is where he belongs, but it’s easy to understand why the Indians haven’t abandoned the idea of using him as a starter. The 27-year-old right-hander certainly has the arsenal, with a mid-90s fastball to go along with a curveball, slider, and changeup.
Zach McAllister’s return to Cleveland lasted all of three days, as the Indians have optioned the right-hander back to Triple-A after he tossed seven innings of three-run ball versus the White Sox on Saturday.
Even with the decent outing over the weekend McAllister has a 5.63 ERA in 11 starts for the Indians this season, but he was a solid mid-rotation starter in 2012 and 2013. He also went 5-0 with a 2.23 ERA in six starts at Triple-A following his first demotion there earlier this season, so odds are the 26-year-old will be back in Cleveland relatively soon.
McAllister has a 4.37 ERA in 61 career starts since the Indians acquired him from the Yankees as a minor leaguer in the 2010 trade for outfielder Austin Kearns.