MIAMI -- The Indians are on the eve of what could go down as one of their more critical series of the second half. For the crucial upcoming set at home against the rival Tigers, Cleveland has made a surprising rotation change.
On Sunday, Indians manager Terry Francona revealed that highly touted pitching prospect Danny Salazar will be promoted from Triple-A Columbus to start against Detroit on Wednesday. Ubaldo Jimenez, who was originally slated to start that game, will be pushed back to Friday to face the Angels.
The Indians will make the official transaction following Tuesday's game in Cleveland.
"We're going to pitch Danny Salazar," Francona said. "We like the idea of seeing what this kid can do."
There is more to the situation than just wanting to see Salazar, though.
Francona admitted that Jimenez's season showing against the Tigers also played a role in the decision to skip his turn during the upcoming four-game series at Progressive Field. In three starts against Detroit this season, the 29-year-old right-hander has gone 1-2 with a 6.92 ERA, allowing 12 runs (10 earned) on 17 hits in just 13 innings.
"It was some of that," Francona said. "Some of it's competitive and it also gives us a chance to give him a little [rest], too. I think we thought that would help him. There's been some times with [Scott Kazmir] where we've done the same thing. For Ubaldo, I think this will do some good."
Jimenez, who logged 107 pitches in only four innings of a loss to the Marlins on Friday, said he did not fight Francona on the decision.
"I'd never do that," said Jimenez, who is 8-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 22 starts this season. "I've had some trouble with [Detroit], but I had good games last year. I have more good games than bad games, especially at home and not what I'm pitching at Comerica Park. They just said everyone is going to get an extra day."
Cleveland's rotation for the four-game series, which begins Monday, will feature Corey Kluber, Justin Masterson, Salazar and Zach McAllister, in that order.
Salazar, 23, made a spot start for the Indians on July 11, and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Blue Jays. The hard-throwing right-hander, rated No. 6 on Cleveland's Top 20 Prospects list according to MLB.com, ended that outing with one run allowed on two hits, and piled up seven strikeouts against one walk. On Friday, Salazar logged five no-hit innings against Triple-A Buffalo, but was pulled from the game after 52 pitches.
This season, Salazar has gone 6-5 with a 2.71 ERA, a .211 opponents' batting average and a 1.02 WHIP over 93 innings between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He ranks 12th overall among all Minor League pitchers in strikeouts (129), but has logged the fewest innings among those dozen arms. On the year, Salazar has turned in a rate of 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Francona said Wednesday will "most likely" serve as a spot start for Salazar, whose innings have been closely monitored since he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2010. Under the circumstances, Cleveland has not ruled out using Salazar as a reliever later in the season.
"We're trying to balance some things with Danny," Francona said. "It's not rocket science. We're just trying to balance out his career, us winning, and I think [the player development staff has] done a great job. Sometimes it's a little bit of a balancing act."