Cleveland Indians: Should Salazar come back to a rotation spot?

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians have had some issues keeping Danny Salazar healthy. When he returns, does Salazar deserve a rotation spot, or should he go to the bullpen?

Terry Francona is going to have an interesting decision to make. As Salazar gets closer to returning from a shoulder issue that placed him on the disabled list to start the season, his role is becoming a lot less clear.

Salazar has made 30 starts in a season only one time, and that was 2015. Last season, he started 19 games and appeared in four games in relief. Could he go straight to the bullpen this time and avoid the rotation entirely? It’s possible.

When is Salazar scheduled to return?

It’s been known that he was going to miss the entire month of April at the very least. And it sounds like he might now miss too much more than that.

The Cleveland Indians obviously want to be careful with Salazar. He’s been an injury prone player in the past and rushing him back too quickly could lead to a setback.

Should he get a rotation spot?

That really kind of depends on how everyone in the current starting rotation is doing. So far the rotation has been carrying the team this season. Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger have sub-2.00 ERAs in their first four starts. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco have sub-3.00 ERAs.

The clear outlier in the rotation is Josh Tomlin. Tomlin has had his spot in the rotation skipped twice now and he’s sitting on a 8.00 ERA in his two starts, which have been pretty short. If Tomlin doesn’t turn things around, he’s going to be removed from the rotation.

Given a general lack of pitching depth, the Cleveland Indians would be wise to give the spot to Salazar upon his return. Even though the team can’t depend on his good health, he presents a better option than Tomlin. Salazar has top of the rotation potential, and even though he hasn’t been healthy enough to reach it, he needs to be given the opportunity to do so.

What would his bullpen role look like?

If Francona chooses to put Salazar in the bullpen upon his return and keep Tomlin in the rotation, Salazar would presumably go into the long relief role. Although with the way most of the rotation has been pitching, there wouldn’t be many opportunities for Salazar to get in the game. Which is good and bad, I guess. It’s good that the starting rotation is pitching well enough that he’s not needed, but it’s also bad that one of the best arms on the staff isn’t getting opportunities.

Considering he’s stretched out to go multiple innings, that would need to be his role though. The Tribe already has a multi inning reliever in Andrew Miller and Salazar won’t be taking any reps away from a healthy Miller. And judging by the way the starters have gone, there won’t be many opportunities for several multi inning relievers in this bullpen.

The only way I see Salazar coming back to anything other than a rotation spot is if Tomlin can somehow find his inner Corey Kluber and just start dominating. If Tomlin continues to pitch the way he has and doesn’t drastically improve, his rotation spot is ripe for the taking. And Salazar is positioning himself to take that spot.

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The Cleveland Indians would have to either slide Tomlin to the bullpen upon Salazar’s return or designate him for assignment. Tomlin is a free agent at the end of the season.