With Danny Salazar’s rehab stint finally nearing its end, the Cleveland Indians will have to decide how he fits into the equation for the 2019 stretch run.
Danny Salazar last appeared in a regular-season MLB game on September 27, 2017. He threw 1.2 innings in the playoffs that season, and has not been seen in action since. He missed all of 2018 and has been working his way back from shoulder surgery for most of this year. That rehab process is approaching its final stages, however, according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic. Perhaps the Cleveland Indians could welcome back the still-just-29-year-old sooner than later.
If Salazar were to rejoin the team, the primary question is what role he would step into. With Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco still out for the foreseeable future, maybe Salazar takes a few turns in the rotation. That isn’t a glaring need for the Indians at the moment, though, as even fifth starter Adam Plutko has performed admirably in the role.
Perhaps his most obvious role is that of a long reliever, but again, with the rotation having been so effective of late, the Indians don’t often find themselves in need of a bullpen workhorse.
If the last few years–particularly the postseason–have taught us anything, it’s that a team can never have too many reliable relievers in the late stages of games. Salazar could be a free addition to the back end of the Cleveland bullpen without having to part with prospects at or before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
Regrettably, there is no window for the Indians to figure out if that’s a viable course of action regarding Salazar, as they’ll play just two more games before the trade clock reaches zero hour.
With that in mind, maybe Salazar’s value to the club lies in his potential versatility. If the Indians do find themselves in need of the occasional innings-eating long reliever, Salazar could reasonably be expected to provide that from time to time. Moreover, the righty has consistently sported high strikeout rates throughout his career.
Although we haven’t seen him in action at the big-league level for nearly two years, it is worth noting that he’s upheld the high strikeout numbers throughout his rehab process this season. The Indians could do worse than experimenting with him in the final few innings of games and giving him a chance to shut the door on opposing teams by way of the strikeout. A potential one-two punch of Salazar and Brad Hand to end games is an intriguing concept.
In any case, Cleveland’s entire pitching staff has been effective throughout the season, so there is no clear-cut means of slotting him into the equation at the moment. Assuming he remains healthy, however, he is a strong candidate to earn some reps in September when rosters expand. From there, the Indians can gauge how he potentially fits into their postseason picture–a picture that looks much more hopeful than it did two months ago.