CLEVELAND -- With Justin Masterson now a member of the Cardinals after Wednesday's trade, the Indians starting rotation has quickly become a whole lot younger.
Corey Kluber, 28, was already the leader of the group in terms of performance, but manager Terry Francona also noted that the stoic righty should begin to take on more of a leadership role in the second half. Kluber is complemented by Trevor Bauer (23), Danny Salazar (24) and Zach McAllister (26). Either Josh Tomlin or T.J. House could round things out as the No. 5 starter, or the Tribe could also continue to utilize a six-man rotation in order to maximize the roster.
In either case, the Indians have made it clear that while they are pleased with the early contributions from the likes of Bauer (4.25 ERA in 15 starts) and House (4.50 ERA in 10 appearances), the rotation as a whole could still stand to improve upon its collective 4.46 ERA, which ranks third worst in the American League entering Wednesday.
"We've been encouraged by some of the developmental progress and strides of some of the younger guys," general manager Chris Antonetti said, "but we obviously need them to continue to grow, continue to get better and perform more consistently in the second half."
Of all the aforementioned names, Salazar perhaps has the best chance of boosting Cleveland's overall pitching performance. Last season, the right-hander came up from Triple-A Columbus after the All-Star break to post a 3.12 ERA and record 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings across 10 starts.
The Indians are hoping he can help spark a similar second-half surge this year.
"Danny is a guy that's pretty much kept us in every game and is still learning," Tribe manager Terry Francona said. "We want to find out about some of these guys. Sometimes if you wait until September or Spring Training, you don't get the real answer. Having some guys in the fire isn't necessarily a bad thing. We did it last year."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.