The Indians are moving right-hander Danny Salazar to the bullpen, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Salazar lasted just two-thirds of an inning in his first start off the disabled list due to inflammation in his right elbow.
To call the 2017 campaign and up-and-down year for Salazar would be an understatement. The 27-year-old pitched poorly through the season’s first two months before a brief move to the ’pen followed by a subsequent placement on the disabled list for shoulder fatigue. He returned roughly six weeks later and looked like the Salazar of old — dominating hitters and racking up prodigious strikeout totals. From July 22 through Aug. 15, Salazar tossed 32 1/3 innings with a minuscule 1.39 ERA and a gaudy 46-to-9 K/BB ratio. Salazar surrendered only five runs in those 32 1/3 frames, but he allowed six runs in his next start (4 2/3 innings) before landing back on the DL.
Salazar’s move to the relief corps points to a rotation consisting of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin down the stretch, though manager Terry Francona did tell Hoynes that the team will try to get Salazar a two- or three-inning appearance in the near future. That could give Salazar an opportunity to stretch back out for the postseason, but he could also simply be multi-inning weapon for October if he takes to his new role well and remains healthy.
Looking beyond the 2017 season, the injuries and the late move to the bullpen this year figure to hamper his arbitration earnings. Salazar avoided arbitration as a Super Two player for the first time last winter, agreeing to a fairly sizable $3.4MM salary. He’ll still receive a raise on that figure for the 2018 season, but the extent of that salary increase will be reduced thanks to his limited innings and lack of productivity for much of the year. Cleveland controls Salazar through the 2020 season, and he’ll be arbitration-eligible a total of three more times (including this upcoming offseason).