Salazar points to curveball in avoiding trouble
Last season, Danny Salazar may have played the largest role in the Cleveland Indians' starting staff getting off to a particularly poor start.
The rotation has been even worse this year, but the 25-year-old isn't to blame.
The right-hander will try to continue buoying the staff in his first May start Tuesday night in Kansas City, where the Indians have won four straight.
Salazar (3-0, 3.32 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Columbus on April 18, and in retrospect, it probably should have happened sooner. He wasn't at his best in Wednesday's 7-5 home win over Kansas City, surrendering four runs and six hits in six innings, but he's struck out 28 while issuing five walks in 19 innings over three starts.
The rotation as a whole has a 5.29 ERA. Last season, Salazar went 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in five April starts as the staff struggled through its worst month with a 5.04 mark.
He points to more consistent use and execution of a curveball, which he almost never used before, as a way to avoid having starts such as his last go from trying to terrible.
"I'm trying to feel comfortable with it," Salazar told MLB's official website. "Sometimes it's going to be there, sometimes it's not going to be there. It's a new pitch that I'm trying out right now and if I feel like it's working, I'm going to use it."
Salazar is 3-3 with a 5.45 ERA in six starts against the Royals, but he's 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA at Kauffman Stadium. Eric Hosmer is 6 for 12 with a home run and three doubles against him, but Omar Infante (1 for 12), Salvador Perez (3 for 16) and Alex Gordon (3 for 15) have all struggled.
He's trying to help the Indians (9-15) to their first back-to-back wins since taking two of three in a season-opening series in Houston. They beat Toronto 10-7 on Sunday to earn a four-game split, and support has been good at 5.80 runs per game in their last 10.
Jason Kipnis was 4 for 5 with a home run and is 8 for 12 with two homers in three games and three in his last five since going 67 without leaving the yard. Michael Brantley went 2 for 3 and is 18 for 40 in his last 10.
The stretch of recent success at the plate includes dropping two of three at home to the Royals (16-9) from April 27-29.
Kansas City followed that series by splitting four at home against Detroit, but the set ended with two losses. In Sunday's 6-4 defeat, the team's six-hit effort dipped its MLB-leading on-base percentage (.349) under .350 for the first time.
Kansas City is trying to avoid it's first three-game losing streak since being swept in three by Cleveland to end August on a four-game skid.
The Royals could have All-Star closer Greg Holland (pectoral strain) back from the disabled list. He last pitched April 17 and has allowed one baserunner in four innings, so if Jason Vargas is able to get him the ball, the Royals should be in good shape.
Vargas (2-1, 5.95), however, has been a problem in the rotation along with Jeremy Guthrie and Yordano Ventura. Vargas limited Cleveland to two runs and three hits and earned the decision in a 6-2 win April 27, but he walked five.
"It's the third day of May," manager Ned Yost said after Sunday's loss. "These guys work really hard. When they're going through periods like this, they continue to work hard. They'll figure it out."
The left-hander is 4-3 with a 5.05 ERA in 10 starts against the Indians.
Lorenzo Cain is completing a two-game suspension and is eligible to return Wednesday.