When Cleveland pitcher Danny Salazar threw batting practice back in May, it shouldn’t have been a big deal. Unfortunately for the Indian’s flame thrower, this was. Salazar is slated for a rehab assignment coming up, which is a monumental step in a long and confusing process for Salazar.
Manager Terry Francona commented on Salazar’s progress in Arizona league rehab telling the media “They want to put together two programs, one where he’d relieve and one where he’d start. They want to get all the (organization’s) pitching guys together and then they want to sit with Danny and see what he thinks.”
The last time fans witnessed the homegrown product pitching in a game was in relief of the 2017 American League Division Series. Salazar worked an inning and two thirds with three strikeouts. We have not seen Danny Salazar since those playoffs over a year ago. Fan speculation has run wild as to what is actually wrong with Salazar, his injury bug seems to have stayed in the twenty-nine years old’s system for a questionable amount of time.
The odd injuries began in the summer of 2016 when Salazar had to sit out the All-Star Game. Shoulder tendinitis spoiled his deserved appearance after an 11-6 record and posting a 3.87 ERA. He was put on the 15-day DL in that August with elbow inflammation. After returning, Salazar made one start before going on the team's paternity list for the birth of his child. Another return came in September, where the right-hander appeared in minor league starts before getting back with the Indians. Upon that return, only two starts were accomplished. At this point, all should have been fine as fans expected a return to All-Star form. For Salazar though, nothing has been as it should.
Salazar would not be seen again until the world series in which he never started but appeared in two games. Apparent right arm soreness kept Salazar out for all that time during the 2016 final stretch and playoffs, but arm soreness holds many meanings from minor to major. The soreness may have been telling, Salazar has never been the same.
The tribe used Salazar differently to start 2017. The former rookie sensation was now being used in a minor role to get him re-acclimated to starting. He pitched two-three innings for his first couple of starts until he got back to his regular hard throwing five-six innings. Salazar couldn’t hold up, he was put on the DL with arms soreness in June after starting 5-6 with a 4.28 ERA.
June and July saw more rehabbing at three different minor league levels. When it was time for a return at the end of July, it came with 5 impressive starts. Once again success wouldn’t last, Salazar showed obvious elbow problems as his starts and appearances now included one to two innings at a time. The Indians made his injury official with a two week DL stint (elbow inflammation) and like the year before he randomly appeared a month later in the postseason.
Danny Salazar never appeared in the 2018 season. Injuries kept him on the 10-day DL until shoulder surgery was finally advised. Rehab did not go as planned, Salazar was put on the 60-day DL twice and consistently complained of a “funny feeling” in his shoulder.
Now instead of being known as the hard-throwing right hander that burst on the scene for the 2013 wild card Indians, things have changed. Fans question if it’s a mental problem, and with reason given everything that’s happened. It may appear to be a case of a pitcher being injury-prone, but flashes of brilliance and unnecessary lengths of time off leave questions. Why did he need so long after paternity leave to return? Why did manager Tito Francona never use him as a starter in the playoffs if he was healthy? Why hasn’t he recovered from any of his injuries that aren’t serious?
The one question that can be answered is, why have the Indians kept Salazar around? The tribe are scheduled to pay Salazar four and a half million in a year in which they clearly got rid of expensive contracts even if they were talented. No matter what’s happened the Indians are determined to get Danny Salazar back to the guy that’s struck out 10 Detroit Tigers in seven innings using his fastball. The only problem with that determination is the fear of random injury, but at this point, that’s Danny Salazar.