Salazar to start Tribe home opener

Cleveland Indians pitcher Danny Salazar bounces a ball on his arm in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Goodyear, Ariz., Tuesday, March 4, 2014.  

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The final two spots in the Indians rotation is set. It is not a surprise that they have gone to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco but the order is a little bit.

Salazar will start the home opener on April 4 against the Twins and Carrasco will go the following day. The conventional wisdom throughout spring training was that whoever got the final spot in the rotation would pitch the home opener and that Salazar’s first start might not come until April 8.

"I wasn’t expecting it. It took me as a surprise," Salazar said. "I’m ready for it. We’re going to have fun."

Salazar started the Tribe’s last home game, which was the AL Wild Card game against Tampa Bay. The right-hander went six innings and gave up three runs in a 4-0 loss. He began last year at Double-A Akron before being called up to Columbus in early May and then making his major-league debut on July 11. His 22 strikeouts in his first three starts are the third most in club history.

The Indians have been bringing Salazar along slowly during spring training. He has appeared in only two Cactus League games, allowing a run in 5 1/3 innings while walking four and striking out five.

Most of Salazar’s appearances have come in minor-league games. On Monday he pitched for Triple-A Columbus against Iowa and allowed only one hit and a run in 4 2/3 innings with two walks and six strikeouts. Salazar is expected to go five innings on Saturday when the Indians face the Padres at the University of San Diego in the final exhibition game of the spring.

With the throwing program he has been on during the spring, Salazar says he will be ready to 6-7 innings in the home opener.

"I started slow but I agreed with the program. I’m healthy, strong and ready for the season. Everything is good," Salazar said.

Carrasco was expected to be a part of the Trbie’s pitching staff, but his spot in the rotation was shaky after giving up eight runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings in a loss to Oakland on March 18.

On Monday though, Carrasco pitched six solid innings in an 8-3 win over the Reds. The right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits, striking out five and walking none. The challenge for Carrasco is to take the aggressiveness he showed against the Reds and do it for an entire season.

"I have to try to be more consistent. I have to go out and go for it," he said.

Josh Tomlin, who was also vying for a rotation spot, has been optioned to Triple-A Columbus. General manager Chris Antonetti said there were some discussions about starting the year with Tomlin in the bullpen but they didn’t feel that was in the best interest of Tomlin or the organization.

Said Antonetti: "Both guys had good camps. What we tried to do was make a decision that was not solely focused on the Opening Day roster but what gave our team the best chance to win as many games as possible over the course of the season. Part of that is making sure we have a lot of options and depth."

Terry Francona said everyone understands why the decision was made, but it is still difficult considering how good a spring that Tomlin had. However, Carrasco was always considered the favorite for the job because he had no options remaining.

"The fact is we have to not just make a team for Opening Day but beyond that. We have no doubt he (Tomlin) will help us win (before the season is over)," Francona said.

The roster was completed when Scott Atchison and Blake Wood got the final slots in the bullpen. The Indians will have 13 pitchers, including eight in the bullpen, and 12 position players.

Here is the roster as it stands:

Infield: Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Mike Aviles, Lonnie Chisenhall, Elliot Johnson

Outfield: Michael Brantley, Nyjer Morgan, David Murphy, Ryan Raburn

Catcher: Yan Gomes

Pitchers: Rotation — Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar; Bullpen — Cody Allen, Scott Atchison, John Axford, Josh Outman, Vinnie Pestano, Marc Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw, Blake Wood

Disabled list — Michael Bourn (hamstring), Jason Giambi (rib)

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