Indians righty strikes out 8, allows 1 hit, faces minimum over 7 innings
By Ben Weinrib
CLEVELAND -- After Danny Salazar missed seven weeks with a right shoulder strain, the Indians weren't quite sure what they could expect out of the hard-throwing right-hander. But one thing is for sure: Saturday night's performance was as good as they could have dreamed.
Salazar struck out eight over seven scoreless frames, as he faced the minimum in a 2-1 win over the Blue Jays in 10 innings. Salazar only let four balls leave the infield, and he erased the lone hit he gave up one batter later on a double play.
"Boy, that was pretty impressive," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We talked about it before the game, best-case scenario, that was it. He came out throwing strikes. He had velocity. He attacked. That was really impressive."
Salazar came out throwing gas with 18 straight fastballs to open the game, and he struck out the side in the first. He pounded the strike zone with first-pitch fastballs to his first 13 batters and racked up five of his eight strikeouts with the pitch.
His velocity was up compared to earlier in the season, with his fastball topping out at 97.7 mph.
"He came right out of the chute attacking with the fastball," Francona said. "He was commanding it. Then off of that, he threw some changeups, not as many as normal, but his fastball was so good. And you could tell he was confident. That was probably the biggest thing."
Salazar had been a staple of the Indians' rotation in his first four seasons with a 3.72 ERA. But the 27-year-old struggled before the shoulder injury to the tune of a 5.40 ERA over 55 innings this season coming into Saturday.
Francona has always characterized Salazar as a confident pitcher, but Saturday's start certainly helped the confidence of a player who was going through his first tough season.
"You have to be [confident] a little bit," Salazar said. "Even though you're struggling, you're not 100 percent, you try to stay positive the whole time, going out there and trying to do your job. And [when] it doesn't work, you start doubting a little bit."
A resurgent Salazar could do wonders for the Indians as the club ponders the possibility of adding another starter before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The way he pitched Saturday, almost no pitcher on the market could match what he can bring.
"It's almost like making a trade," Francona said. "Kind of like we said with [Carlos] Carrasco a few years ago when he had the hamstring. You're getting a pitcher that's fresh. It can be a huge lift for us. That's the hope."
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.