CLEVELAND (AP) — Danny Salazar has gone from starting a playoff game to pitching in the minor leagues.
The Indians optioned the hard-throwing Salazar to Triple-A Columbus after he struggled in eight starts this season. He was 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA, striking out 47 in 40 2-3 innings, but allowed 49 hits, including eight home runs.
Salazar’s fast rise to the major leagues last season has been followed by a quick fall, but manager Terry Francona is confident the right-hander will succeed.
"I’m telling you, he’s going to be a good major league pitcher," Francona said. "He will be back and he will be good."
The 24-year-old Salazar jumped three levels last season before joining the Indians in July. He was 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts and dazzled opponents by hitting 100 mph on the radar gun several times. Salazar started the wild-card playoff game against Tampa Bay and was the losing pitcher, allowing three runs in four innings.
Salazar couldn’t build off last season’s success, which is why the Indians decided the demotion was necessary.
"You try to make moves when they make sense and try not to react on emotion," Francona said. "The end-all was what’s in his best interests. Obviously, we care about the team, but we tried to make the decision based on Danny."
Not only was pitch location a problem for Salazar, he lasted less than six innings in six starts, which put a burden on the bullpen. He gave up two homers in four innings in a loss to Toronto on Thursday and was pulled after throwing 97 pitches.
"When he’s making mistakes, he’s paying for it and not getting real deep in games," Francona said. "He’s gotten away from locating his fastball down. His breaking ball has been inconsistent. There’s been some really good ones and some that aren’t. He’s gotten away from his changeup, and that was one of his best pitches."
Salazar missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons because of Tommy John surgery. The Indians have been cautious with him in terms of workload since. Salazar thought earlier this season he might have been tipping his pitches.
Salazar won his major league debut last season when he allowed one run and struck out seven in six innings against Toronto. His most memorable moment came in his next start when he struck out Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera three times, becoming the only starting pitcher in the majors to accomplish that feat last season. Cabrera got his revenge with a dramatic home run in the eighth inning.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in seven starts at Columbus, is expected to take Salazar’s spot in the rotation and start Tuesday against Detroit. Bauer, selected by Arizona with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, was acquired in a trade following the 2012 season.
Left-hander Kyle Crockett had his contract selected from Double-A Akron. Crockett, taken in the fourth round of last season’s draft, is the first member of that class to make it to the majors. He had six saves and allowed one run in 15 2-3 innings at Akron.