A's look to cut down on strikeouts vs. Indians (May 31, 2017)
CLEVELAND -- There will be a new, and unexpected, relief pitcher available in the Cleveland bullpen Wednesday night when the Indians host the Oakland A's in the third game of a four-game series.
Right-hander Danny Salazar will be on call for relief work for the first time since being pulled out of the Indians' rotation. Salazar, who struggled badly in 10 starts this season, has been moved to the bullpen in hopes of getting him straightened out and back pitching as he did last year, when he was selected to the American League All-Star team.
The move was made after Salazar went 3-5 with a 5.50 ERA while averaging almost five walks per nine innings in his 10 starts.
"This is not our goal, to have him in the 'pen, but it wasn't getting done," manager Terry Francona said. "You can banish a guy to the 'pen, send him to the penalty box. We're not going to do that. This is temporary. But right now he doesn't have a ton of confidence."
The Indians used the same tactic a couple of years ago with Carlos Carrasco, who went to the bullpen as a struggling starter, was able to reboot, and eventually returned to the rotation as a dependable, productive starter. Team officials hope the same thing happens with Salazar.
Oakland, meanwhile, is trying to get its season turned around. The A's have a run differential of minus-51, and Bob Melvin has used a different lineup in each of the team's past 45 games, but to little effect.
The A's continue to be plagued by strikeouts. In the first two games of the Cleveland series, Oakland hitters struck out 29 times, including 19 K's in their 9-4 loss Tuesday. At one point in the Tuesday game, Cleveland's Trevor Bauer struck out 10 of 12 batters.
"They've got strikeout guys and we do strike out some," Melvin said. "But recently, we've been striking out too much. When we don't put the ball in play, we don't give ourselves a chance."
The pitching matchup Wednesday will be Oakland's Sean Manaea (3-3, 4.35 ERA) against Cleveland's Mike Clevinger (2-1, 2.82).
Manaea has a streak of 14 consecutive games in which he has allowed five hits or fewer while pitching two or more innings. That is the longest such streak by an American League pitcher since at least 1913.
Manaea is coming off a strong start in his last outing, a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday in which he pitched seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball. He struck out eight and walked one. In his only career appearance against the Indians on Aug. 23, 2016, Manaea was the winning pitcher in a 9-1 A's victory. In that game, Manaea pitched seven innings, allowing one run on three hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.
Clevinger was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on May 7 when Corey Kluber was placed on the disabled list. Clevinger's last start was the worst of his five starts replacing Kluber. In a 6-4 loss to Kansas City on Friday, he pitched five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits, two of them home runs.
In his first four starts replacing Kluber, Clevinger was 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA and held opposing batters to a .111 batting average.
Clevinger will be starting against Oakland for the first time in his career. He pitched an inning of relief in the game Manaea started against Cleveland last summer, and he gave up three runs on four hits.