For the second straight year, Danny Salazar will pitch in a home opener. There will be a lot more attention on this one though.
Salazar takes the hill on Friday as the Indians host the Twins. The right-hander already knows what it is like pitching in front of a sold out crowd at Progressive Field, but did admit he is a little nervous.
"I think it is easier knowing what to expect. I got to close the year last year in Cleveland and now I get to open the year," Salazar said. "I’m preparing myself mentally. The people are going to be crazy cheering for us."
Salazar opened last season in Double-A Akron and pitched the season opener at Canal Park. In that game against Binghamton, he allowed just two hits and a run with five strikeouts over five innings in a 2-1 loss. After stints with Akron and Columbus, Salazar was with the Indians by mid-July and averaged 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings, which was the most in club history among pitchers with at least seven starts and 50 innings pitched.
In five September starts, Salazar went 1-1 with a 2.52 ERA. He was brought along slow during spring training but feels like his elbow and arm are strong going into his first regular-season start. In last Saturday’s final spring training game, which was won by San Diego 9-8, Salazar struggled with his command a bit and allowed six runs, seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out five.
Salazar is 0-1 against the Twins. In an Aug. 13 game last season, he gave up a pair of home runs in the first two innings as Minnesota won 3-0. Salazar will be opposed by Minnesota right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who is 1-0 in three previous starts against the Indians.
The Tribe enter Friday’s game after taking two of three in Oakland. The Twins avoided a sweep in Chicago with a 10-9 win over the White Sox on Thursday.
"Everyone loves going home. It feels like forever," manager Terry Francona said. "Getting home and getting settled, home openers are really special."
This marks the sixth time that the Indians have faced the Twins in the home opener. They have won the previous four, which were all at Progressive Field.