"From all the scouts that have seen him," Francona said, "he's a lot closer to the Danny that got called up last year than the one we saw earlier in the year."
Following a breakout showing last summer, when Salazar posted a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 52 innings across 10 starts for the Tribe, the 24-year-old righty earned a spot in the Opening Day rotation this year. Salazar then posted a 5.53 ERA with a 1.62 WHIP in eight starts, leading to a trip back to Triple-A in May.
The Indians tasked Salazar with refining his delivery -- the goal being to pound the lower half of the strike zone more consistently. In 10 starts at Columbus, Salazar has turned in a 4.02 ERA with 67 strikeouts against 28 walks in 53 2/3 innings. Over his most recent six outings, he has a 3.00 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 19 walks in 36 frames.
"I know everybody looks at numbers," Francona said, "but he went down specifically to start throwing his fastball down and driving it through the zone. And the last three or four starts have been really good. It's better."
The Indians, who are currently carrying 10 relievers and three starters, will need to make a roster move on Monday and Tuesday to fill out their rotation. Lefty T.J. House, who was sent to Class A short-season Mahoning Valley to stay on a throwing program over the All-Star break, will be summoned on Monday to start in Minnesota.
Francona said that Trevor Bauer (Wednesday in Minnesota) and Corey Kluber (Thursday in Kansas City) will follow House and Salazar in the upcoming rotation. For Friday's road game against the Royals, Cleveland will either recall righty Zach McAllister from Columbus or activate sinkerballer Justin Masterson (right knee) from the 15-day disabled list.
Masterson was scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Columbus on Sunday night.
"We had this worked out for a while," Francona said of the rotation schedule. "We're really not sure who might be our five all the time, but I don't think we don't feel like we can win with whoever is pitching. ... I know [players] don't like coming up and going down, but it makes our roster bigger and it helps us."
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.