If you live in Cleveland or play in competitive fantasy baseball leagues, I’m sure you’re probably familiar with a Cleveland Indians‘ starting pitcher by the name of Danny Salazar. If you’re not, you’re missing out on witnessing a 24-year-old pitcher on the verge of doing some special things for the Indians.
Drafted in 2008 as an international free agent, Salazar has had some challenges to overcome during the past six years. As we sit here in 2014, I think it’s safe to say he’s overcome those very challenges in impressive fashion.
With a fastball topping out at 89 mph when he initially signed, Salazar obviously wasn’t considered a flame thrower — my how things have changed — as Salazar, whose name is now routinely associated with the words “gas” and “heat,” bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2010, hitting triple digits on the radar gun.
Salazar’s new found power arm was on display in 2013 after a call up to the majors in July of last season, and the arm was as advertised. A 3.12 era and 1.13 whip with 65 strikeouts in 52 innings of work earned the young pitcher a start in an all crucial wildcard play in game.
While Salazar’s three earned runs in four innings would result in an Indians loss, his overall performance in 2013 was highly impressive and gave Indians fans a player to be excited about heading into 2014.
Well, 2014 is here, and Salazar is back to his dominating ways, as he pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball in Wednesday’s 13-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Salazar struck out three batters on the day, once again displaying his ability to miss bats with regularity.
Pitching in only his second game of the spring, Salazar bounced back from a somewhat expected subpar first outing. The outing was somewhat expected as Salazar, by design, has been brought along extremely slowly this spring in order to “save his bullets” for the regular season.
Most pitchers are pitching close to six innings at this point in the spring, and Salazar entered Wednesday’s matchup with only 1.2 innings of work the entire spring, which is a rarity for a healthy pitcher this deep into Spring Training.
What that says to me is that Salazar will still be building arm strength during the regular season, which actually isn’t a bad idea on the Indians’ part. Manager Terry Francona has publically stated that a “week in April is not the end of the world,” which lets me know that the Indians are more concerned with seeing Salazar pitching in October, not April.
If Salazar can stay healthy and the Indians can continue to wisely maintain his workload, the chances that we will actually see Salazar and the Indians playing games in October are far more probable, as he has difference making ability.
The Indians may or may not make the playoffs this season, but If they do, you can rest assure that Salazar will have played a huge role in the accomplishment.