"We're trying to get his gas tank to the fullest amount there is," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Thursday. "When the season starts, this will be more than likely some uncharted water for him. He's going to start a year and we want him to finish the year.
"There's not going to be an innings limit and he really hasn't done that for a while. So, we want to give him a baseline and get him as strong as we can. That's why we've probably started out a little bit slower with him, because we don't want to interupt his season."
Asked if Salazar needed to be ready to log at least five innings by Opening Day (March 31), Francona said the Indians have not set that type of goal yet. The manager was then quick to note that -- because of a day off on April 3 -- Cleveland does not technically need to use a fifth starter until April 8.
Francona did not say Salazar would necessarily be slotted into that spot in the starting staff, but the manager certainly left open that possibility.
"Opening Day is not the finishing line," Francona said. "With off-days and things built in -- you can all do the addition -- it kind of buys you like an extra nine days, if you want it. We'll see. We'll see where we're at. I guess I don't get too caught up in it, because we care so much about getting him ready for his career that a week in April is not the end of the world."
The 24-year-old Salazar posted a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 52 innings for the Indians last season, but logged a career-high 145 innings between the Minors and Majors. Cleveland has taken a cautious approach with the hard-throwing righty in the years since he underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in 2010.
"We have an obligation to everybody in our organization," Francona said, "to take care of guys and have a reason for doing things. With Danny, we talked to our medical people, and [pitching coach Mickey Calaway], and you go from there and try to make good decisions. It's really based on trying to have him out there every five or six days for the whole year. That's the goal."
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.