When the Cleveland Indians decided to demote starting pitcher Danny Salazar to AAA Columbus, the hope was a few starts in the minors would help boost his confidence and allow him to start developing his secondary pitches. While MLB batters were able to tee off on his fastball, he should be able to mow down batters in the minors with his fastball, all while improving his other pitches.
If it was a confidence boost Salazar was looking for in Columbus, yesterday’s first start did not help. In his first start with the Columbus Clippers, Salazar gave up five runs on six hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings of work. Even more damning for Salazar was the 70 pitches required to get eight outs. It is just the latest string of starts for Salazar that ended early with a high pitch count. Salazar has made it past the 6th inning just once this season, and prior to yesterday his shortest start was a 3 2/3 inning, 93 pitch effort back on April 10th against the Chicago White Sox.
Salazar has shown he can make batters miss with his fastball (in his 40.2 innings of work with the Indians he has 47 strikeouts), but foul balls have caused his pitch counts to soar early in games. For Salazar it’s miss or bust; either the batter misses, or tees off on a changeup or fastball high in the zone. His lack of control is not leading to walks, as he only has 17 on the season with the Indians and three more with Columbus yesterday, but when he misses it’s in the strike zone and served up for batters.
When Salazar was optioned to Columbus, Terry Francona made his expectations clear:
We told him, we said, ‘Hey, we don’t care about your numbers. We want you to execute pitches, use your changeup, get confidence back in that pitch and be armed to get Major League hitters out when you come back.’ And he will come back, and he will be good.
Even if you ignore the number from yesterday’s start, you cannot call it a confidence boost or a step towards consistency for Salazar. There is no doubt right now that he will be in Columbus for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we can chalk yesterday’s start up to the confidence hit he took when he was demoted back to the minors. It is by no means time to give up on Danny Salazar. With Trevor Bauer looking confident and comfortable in his start against the Detroit Tigers last night, the Indians may have bought themselves some more time to evaluate Salazar and give him more time to get his confidence back.