CLEVELAND -- After missing a month and a half with right shoulder soreness, Danny Salazar is back. The Indians activated the right-hander from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday prior to his start against the Blue Jays, giving them six healthy starters. In a corresponding move, Cleveland optioned left-hander Ryan Merritt to Triple-A Columbus.
"For the long haul, [we will] have him situated where he's ready to pitch every five ... or six days and let's go," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Because there's so much talent there, it just got to a point where I thought Danny needed to kind of build a base because his confidence was lacking. The best way to build that is through hard work."
With six starters, the Indians have options for their rotation, but Francona said he doesn't imagine sticking with a six-man rotation long term. He plans on giving each starter at least one more turn before making a decision.
"My guess is that a need will arise that we have to get back to five just because if you're going six, there's no room for someone to have a hiccup, or you kind of get into your bullpen too much," Francona said. "So we'll see how it goes and if we need to, we can always do something, or maybe it happens organically. We'll see. We'll kind of play it by ear. There's no reason that we have to make a decision today, so we'll kind of let it play itself out and we'll see what we think is in our team's best interest."
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin started the season in the rotation, but 26-year-old Mike Clevinger has been as effective as any of them with a 2.74 ERA over 12 starts beginning in May. At the same time, Bauer (5.58 ERA) and Tomlin (5.74 ERA) have had up-and-down seasons.
Francona said that if all six stay healthy, the five pitching the best may not be the ones who stay in the rotation. Other factors, such as who would be most likely to succeed in the bullpen, are part of the decision. Bauer and Clevinger each made seven relief appearances last year, while Salazar has made two relief appearances this season.
"You can't just take the five that are maybe doing the best at the moment and shoveling one guy to the bullpen," Francona said. "That may not help over the course of the next month. Those are all things that we would certainly think about. It's not just who's making the start. That guy that's making that start certainly influences the day a lot, but there's other considerations."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.