Our list of the Top 25 Cleveland Indians in 2016 sees Danny Salazar come in at No. 12 following a great season cut short by injuries.
Danny Salazar missed some time in August due to injury, but Cleveland Indians fans did not panic. Then came September 9, when Salazar walked off the mound for the final time in the regular season. He did appear twice in relief during the World Series, but both came in losses to the Chicago Cubs.
The Indians did cruise for much of the postseason, but the pitching staff ran out of gas at the end. One can only wonder what could have been if Salazar was healthy.
Up until his first injury, which came at the beginning of August, Salazar was one of the best pitchers in the American League. He finished July with a 2.97 ERA and had not lost a decision since May 22.
Even with the injuries, he finished third on the team in strikeouts (161) while finishing fifth in innings pitched (137.1). His performance during the first half was good enough to earn him All-Star Game honors, joining Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor.
But in a season of injuries and the unexpected reigning supreme, Salazar was an unfortunate casualty. His start on September 9 was supposed to help him prepare for the playoffs, but it started a nasty trend of injuries that saw both Salazar and Carlos Carrasco be deemed out for the rest of the year, although the former made his return in the World Series.
Salazar did pitch three scoreless innings in the World Series in what was a gutty return from several regular-season injuries.
The good news is that Salazar was able to return from his injuries, seemingly with no long-lasting effects that will carry over into 2017. Given he can stay healthy for the entire season, there is no reason why he cannot be the team’s second starter behind Kluber.
Terry Francona may even want to give the young pitcher scheduled days off during the season to ease the stress on his arm. Francona could learn from Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue, who rests his stars to ensure they remain healthy all season.
Salazar ends up so high on this list based on how he performed up until the final two months of the season. He was a dominant force in the AL and it would have been great to see what he could have done in a full game against the Cubs. But as the familiar Cleveland refrain goes, there’s always next year.