He didn’t have his best stuff, but for the Cleveland Indians‘ fourth starter, Danny Salazar, he did enough to keep his team in the game, and that’s a good sign; he was enough to allow the Indians to rally for an eventual 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.
“I kept the team in the game,” Salazar said after the win. “We started off a little bit slow with the bats, but then we got it going a little bit and got some runs, and we got the win for the team.”
Salazar ran into trouble in the first inning, allowing a pair of runs that put the Tribe behind quickly, but take into consideration the nerves of opening day as well as the fact the team was coming off a rather odd three-day start of the season in Oakland in which they had to play a double dip against the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night. Most of the players didn’t get into their homes until about 10 a.m. Thursday after a long night of travel. His stuff didn’t showed up in the first inning or two, and it was evident as the Twins scored on a sac-fly by Josh Willingham to score Brian Dozier to make it 1-0, and then with two outs in the frame on a 2-2 count, Chris Colabello homered to deep right center to quiet the sellout crowd at Progressive Field and give the Twins the two-run advantage.
It’s two-straight big starts for Salazar at Progressive Field, coming off the Wild Card loss last October against the Tampa Bay Rays, and now opening day at the stadium which celebrated its 20th anniversary. Salazar knew he would have some butterflies early, but did a solid job keeping it all together.
“I was trying to stay calm, but at the same time thinking about like why I can’t keep the ball down,” Salazar said. “I know I can, but it was a little bit hard for me.”
The pitcher dug deep and was able to gut out 5.2 innings with a strong wind and colder temps than expected in the 40s, and held the Indians in the game while Twins starter Mike Pelfrey seemed unhittable for the first five innings. On the day, he allowed two runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Coming from starting the opener for the Double-A Akron Aeros last season to starting for the Major League Indians is quite a leap, and one the pitcher kept in perspective on not his best day.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but I tried to fight,” Salazar said. “I just tried to keep the team in the game.”
The Indians held Salazar back during the spring not to tire him out, and the fact that he did have some early struggles showed like so many young throwers, he’s got work to do. He’s got a big fan in the dugout in manager Terry Francona, who was just happy to get his starter into the sixth inning while the Indians’ offense finally worked their way back into the game.
“Danny’s got plenty of stuff and he doesn’t back down which is good,” Francona said. “I thought like (starters) Zach (McAllister) and Corey (Kluber), he battled his fastball command today. He wasn’t throwing his breaking ball really where he wanted to, so they are sitting on one pitch, and he wasn’t commanding it. I think we were kind of fortunate they didn’t spread the lead out.”
And in the end, it paid off with a win for the Indians, and a lesson learned for their young pitcher.