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Innings in mind, Tribe shifts back Salazar

Innings in mind, Tribe shifts back Salazar

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Innings in mind, Tribe shifts back Salazar

ANAHEIM -- The Indians are faced with a balancing act when it comes to young starter Danny Salazar. Cleveland wants to keep a close eye on his workload, but the club feels the right-hander can make an impact in its push for a possible playoff spot.

The Indians announced Monday that Salazar -- the club's No. 6 prospect, according to MLB.com -- had been scratched from that night's game against the Angels, and he will instead start on Tuesday. The righty was replaced by starter Zach McAllister, who was initially scheduled to start on Tuesday in Anaheim. Sinkerballer Justin Masterson will start against the Halos on Wednesday, as planned.

The Indians indicated that they are simply trying to take steps toward monitoring Salazar's innings, considering he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. By starting on Tuesday rather than Monday, the 23-year-old Salazar will be given a full week of rest between turns.

"Obviously, we try to win every game we play," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But we have to balance where he is in his career, and things like that."

Francona noted that the team actually decided a few days ago to flip-flop Salazar and McAllister in the rotation.

Salazar last pitched on Aug. 12 against the Twins, but he was pulled after four innings and 71 pitches. In 21 Minor League appearances this season, between stints with Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, Salazar averaged 70 pitches per outing and topped out at 89 pitches. The hard-throwing righty has logged 89 or more pitches in two of his three starts wth the Tribe.

This year with Cleveland, Salazar is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, in which he has piled up 22 strikeouts against five walks. He posted a 2.71 ERA, 129 strikeouts and 24 walks in 93 Minor League innings earlier this season.

"He was mowing right through people," Francona said of Salazar's time in the Minors this year. "At this level, that doesn't happen very often where you have 70 pitches at the end of five, because the lineups are better and the hitters are better. They're more stressful innings. You have to take that into consideration also."

The 110 2/3 innings, Salazar has turned in his most in one professional season, and it marks just the second time in his career that he has surpassed 100 innings. He logged 107 1/3 innings for Class A Lake County in 2009, but his innings totals of the previous three years have been 32 1/3 ('10), 14 2/3 ('11) and 87 2/3 ('12).

Many teams abide by a 20-percent guideline for increasing a starting pitcher's innings from season to season. Salazar has already exceeded that projection (roughly 105 innings) this year between the Minors and Majors.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who is currently with the team in Anaheim, said on Monday that the team does not have a strict innings-increase rule. Antonetti indicated that the organization analyzes each pitcher's work volume on a case-by-case basis, tracking a variety of factors, including a pitcher's mechanics.

Francona said that Salazar's mechanics do not create as much physical stress as some other pitchers.

"His delivery is so sound," Francona said. "I think we feel like there's not really a hard innings limit, just because of the way his mechanics are. Our guys that follow that feel pretty good about where he is."

Antonetti and Francona have both stated this year that the team has not ruled out having Salazar work as a reliever late in the season. Cleveland could also potentially shift to a six-man rotation for part of September, after rosters expand to 40 players, to help provide extra rest for its starting pitchers.

When the Indians have the ability to give Salazar an extra day or two of rest, Francona said they will likely do so.

"You try to strike a balance," Francona said. "That's not always the easiest thing to do when you're competing, but I kind of feel like I have an obligation to the organization to do that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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