Per Zack Meisel of The Athletic, Indians righty Danny Salazar will begin a rehab assignment with the club’s Arizona League affiliate tomorrow evening. It’s been a long road back for the 29-year-old Salazar, who’s been beset by shoulder injuries since his last appearance in a major league game on September 27, 2017.
Salazar’s shoulder surgery, which took place nearly a year ago to the day, was exploratory in nature and left the fireballing righty no timetable for a return. The team had initially expressed optimism that the 2016 All-Star could return early in 2019, but Salazar suffered multiple setbacks in his rehab process and had been unable to return to bullpen mounds until earlier this month.
When healthy, the five-year vet’s dynamite repertoire is among the nastiest in the game. Salazar’s yet to complete a season, partial or otherwise, where he didn’t set down at least a batter an inning, and in 19 starts for the club in 2017, the flamethrower averaged 95.1 MPH on his fastball and struck out nearly 13 men per nine. A fully healthy, back-to-form version of Salazar, who’d project to return around the same time as ace Corey Kluber, could give the Indians the AL’s most formidable rotation and supercharge the team’s push toward the AL Central crown.
Such a scenario may be pie in the proverbial sky, though, as the club will almost certainly let caution reign with the still-controllable righty, who’s set to hit arbitration for the final time in 2020. The club hasn’t been shy about deploying Salazar as a ’pen arm in the past, a role which may again be his if he’s to return to Cleveland without incident in ’19.