Salazar set for duel with Verlander
DETROIT — In his last outing, Danny Salazar struck out 10 but became the only pitcher in baseball’s modern era to do it in a start lasting less than four innings. Salazar is hoping to go deeper this afternoon as the Tribe and Tigers finish up a two-game series at Comerica Park.
The right-hander is coming into the game on an extra day of rest after Tuesday’s game was postponed. This is Salazar’s 13th career start and the third time he has faced the Tigers.
Since last Thursday’s start at Chicago, where he gave up five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, Salazar (0-1, 6.75 ERA) said he has been working more on the delivery of his offspeed pitches and trying to get more consistency.
"I was getting behind too many times and I thought I was overthrowing the slider and changeup," he said. "I just need to slow down my arm a little bit. Use the same arm speed as my fastball and do a better job controlling it."
Considering that the Indians were conservative in using Salazar during spring training, he has thrown 90-plus pitches in his two starts but hasn’t made it more than six innings. He went 5 2/3 innings in the home opener on April 4 against Minnesota.
"The more he leverages his fastball down, you are going to see him go deeper into games. When he starts throwing it down, his breaking ball comes out of the same window," Terry Francona said. "When you get a guy ahead you want to throw one up but he’s been leaving them up to his arm side more than he wants to."
This will also be the second time that Salazar is going up against Detroit ace Justin Verlander. They faced each other on Sept. 1 last season here with Salazar pitching six shutout innings and Verlander holding the Tribe scoreless in seven innings. Cleveland won the game in the ninth inning 4-0 on a Mike Aviles grand slam.
Miguel Cabrera is 1 for 4 against Salazar while Victor Martinez is 2 for 6.
Said Salazar of facing Cabrera and the Tigers’ lineup: "He’s the best batter in the league right now. You have to get ready mentally but I had the opportunity to see them the day before and know what they are looking for in pitches and attack."
Verlander, who is 1-1 this season with a 2.57 ERA, is 17-14 lifetime against the Indians with a 4.38 ERA. Indians outfielder Michael Brantley is 15 for 38 (.395) with Michael Bourn (7 for 18) and David Murphy (6 for 20) also hitting .300 or better. If Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana are both looking to break out of their slumps, this might not be the best day. Santana is hitting only .188 against Verlander (6 for 32) while Swisher has a .200 average (13 for 65). Both though have three home runs against Verlander.
"He’s one of the best competitors out there. He has another gear and if you can make him work from the get go and not make him settle in you have a shot," Francona said of Verlander.
LOOKING BACK: There are some who have wondered why Francona did not want to intentionally walk Cabrera during the eighth inning since he had the free base. Francona said it is always something to consider but that the weather played a role in it.
"It is the middle of April and it’s cold. When he’s in midseason form you think more about it ," Francona said. "To hit one out yesterday you had to hit it pretty good."