The Indians are still searching for answers on Danny Salazar’s ailing right shoulder, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Salazar, 28, has been out all season due to a right shoulder impingement that is causing tendinitis, and he’s currently not throwing after receiving a pair of injections in his shoulder this month. He will be re-evaluated by team medical officials in the coming days.
FanRag’s Jon Heyman, though, paints an even more ominous picture when it comes to Salazar, reporting in this week’s notes column that the Indians don’t expect Salazar to return until September, if he returns at all this season. For a club that has seen considerable struggles both at the fifth spot in the rotation and in the bullpen, that’s a most unwelcome timeline for a clearly talented arm that, if healthy, would give Cleveland one of the top rotations in all of baseball.
Fans of the team, clearly, will hope that there’s still some possibility of a more optimistic prognosis. The recent track record, though, does not inspire much confidence. Shoulder troubles slowed Salazar in 2017 as well, when the right-hander was limited to just 103 innings. More generally, durability concerns have plagued him throughout his MLB tenure, as he’s topped 25 appearances and 140 innings in just one season — his 185-inning 2015 campaign.
If Salazar is indeed out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the Indians will have to determine whether Shane Bieber or Adam Plutko will occupy the fifth spot in the rotation behind Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger now that Josh Tomlin has been dropped to the bullpen. They’ll also need to plan for ways in which they can upgrade their bullpen without relying on the possibility of a healthy Salazar returning to supplement a group that has struggled through multiple DL stints to Andrew Miller. Clearly, the team has missed the reliable innings it got last year from setup men Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith (though Shaw has struggled considerably in his own right in his first season with the Rockies).
A prolonged absence for Salazar would not only be a blow to the Indians but would also potentially impact his future standing with the organization. Salazar entered the 2018 season with three years, 162 days of Major League service time and will be arbitration-eligible for the third time as a Super Two player this offseason. He’s earning $5MM this year and would likely command that same figure in arbitration were he to miss the whole year, while he’d probably receive a small bump if he returns to contribute in any capacity this September. While that’s hardly an exorbitant amount to pay for a pitcher of Salazar’s considerable upside, the Indians don’t generally have ample cash reserves to work with and could end up facing a tough call.