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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | May 19, 2019

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar

| On 25, Feb 2019

Major League Baseball will kick off the 2019 season with its earliest start ever (excluding international openers) as all 30 teams will take the field on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 31 days

One year ago while addressing jersey number 31 in Tribe history, I wrote a story pondering the potential impact that Danny Salazar might have on the Cleveland Indians roster for the 2018 season. Now, I’m suffering a case of déjà vu as I have to do the same thing again for Salazar in regards to the 2019 campaign.

Last year, the answer was clear even from the start of spring camp that Salazar was not going to contribute a full year’s work to the club, as just days after pitchers and catchers reported to their designated Spring Training sites, the Indians announced that Salazar had injured his shoulder during an offseason workout the month prior and that he was already well behind other players reporting to Goodyear. That right shoulder inflammation was followed by setbacks in his throwing program and by the beginning of July, his season was over after an arthroscopic debridement and a bursectomy were performed on his throwing shoulder in the rotator cuff region.

Salazar was shut down from throwing for a period of three to four months.

“It was what we hoped,” said manager Terry Francona to the media on July 2. “You hoped it was just a cleanup, and not something structural.”

Salazar – Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

“I think it is probably the best possible outcome, because nothing was repaired,” shared head athletic trainer James Quinlan in the July 2 story on MLB.com. “It was cleaned, things were cleaned up. They went in there anticipating it to be just a cleanup, and that’s all that was done.”

Now, Salazar’s role with the Tribe for 2019 is a mystery. The starting rotation has little room available, with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Shane Bieber holding down spots and Adam Plutko considered the next man up. A full return to health and to his previous results on the mound by Salazar could push Bieber back to the minors, but it is hard to bank on a player who has been unable to get on the field, let alone stay on it, in well over a year.

The Indians had enough faith in Salazar’s ability to tender him a contract, avoiding arbitration with him at the end of November on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. Salazar has always been a pitcher with plenty of potential, but he has yet to showcase that over an entire season. He was an All-Star in 2016 after a strong start, but he faltered and later landed on the disabled list and was a non-factor in the team’s postseason run. Even after injuries tapped into his 2017 season and eliminated any contributions in 2018, it is hard for an organization to walk away from a player with his upside…when healthy.

Even now, nearly eight months after his surgery, Salazar is only just playing catch. He is not expected to appear in Cactus League play until the very end of spring training at the earliest, and his hopes are to pitch at the Major League level before the All-Star break.

“We’re taking it day by day, week by week,” said Salazar in a February 12, 2019, story on Indians.com. “Shoulder surgery, they’re like tough. One day you come here feeling amazing, the next day you’re sore, and we’re just trying to take it day by day right now.

“Sometimes you feel like you want to rush because it really gets in your head. But being in contact with my teammates, the front office and the Major League managing staff, it really helps because you know they really have your back and they’re working with you so you can get back.”

Given the extended length of time that Salazar will be out again, his quickest path back to action and to the Majors may be out of the bullpen. He has not been the biggest advocate of pitching in a relief role, but it would help get him on the mound quicker without the need to lengthen him out to starters’ innings. It also would give the Indians another potential weapon in their bullpen later in the season, which may be of utmost importance given the already uncertain nature of the relief arms collected by Cleveland this offseason.

When last healthy and contributing, Salazar made just 19 starts, with four relief appearances scattered in during June prior to his DL stint and again in September after a second setback. He went 5-6 with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP, but he averaged a career-best 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. His 103 innings of work for the year were his fewest since his debut season. He missed nearly seven weeks in June and July with right shoulder soreness and missed two more weeks in August and September with right elbow inflammation. As a reliever, he showed some promising results, allowing just one run on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts over five and two-thirds innings of those four games.

Health has always been an obstacle for Salazar. He has struggled to last deep in games even when healthy, pitching into the seventh inning in just five starts and actually completing the frame only three times in 2017. He was off to a strong start to his 2016 season (he was 10-3 with a 2.22 ERA through the first three months of the season), but he struggled to remain as effective dating back to his final start before the All-Star break that season. His injuries and ineffectiveness, and the fluke liner that struck Carrasco that year, may have been the biggest things keeping the Indians from ending their World Series title drought that season at 68 years.

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Salazar is one of 51 different players in Tribe history to wear the number 31 and, like many of them, he has done so on the pitching slab in Cleveland. When he appears in a regular season game for the first time this year, he will become the longest tenured 31 during the Jacobs Field/Progressive Field era.

Previously, Cliff Lee spent five years in the number from 2005 to 2009, winning a Cy Young award with the club in 2008 after years of up and down results on the mound for the Indians. Three other left-handers (Chuck Finley, Brian Anderson, and David Huff) have also worn the number to the mound for the Indians at their downtown gem, as have right-handers Jeff D’Amico and Jamey Wright.

Winfield – MLB.com

Only two position players have taken up the number at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario for the Tribe.

Dave Winfield was the first Indians player period to wear the number there, doing so during his final big league campaign in 1995. In his 22nd MLB season and at the age of 43, the 12-time All-Star was a shell of his former self, hitting .191 in 46 games with five doubles, two homers, and four RBI while serving as a part-time designated hitter prior to gaining entrance to Cooperstown on his first ballot.

Winfield started his career in 1973, when he was selected with the fourth overall pick in that draft out of the University of Minnesota. He debuted later that season for the San Diego Padres, beginning his long and successful career. He spent eight seasons with the Friars, making the National League All-Star team in each of his last four seasons with the club and winning a Gold Glove Award in his last two years there for his work in right field. He would later move on to New York with the Yankees, spending parts of nine seasons there while making eight straight American League All-Star teams, winning five Gold Gloves, and earning five Silver Slugger awards. He would also play for the California Angels (1990-91), Toronto Blue Jays (1992), and Minnesota Twins (1993-94) before joining the Tribe, winning a World Series with the Jays in 1992 at the age of 41.

Mark Little, who spent four years with five clubs at the MLB level, played his final eleven big league games with the Indians in 2004, hitting .200 with a pair of RBI as the other position-playing 31 in recent Tribe history.

Other notable 31s in Indians history: “Suitcase Bob” Seeds (the first to do so from 1931 to 1932), Eddie Robinson (1942), Satchel Paige (1948), Allie Clark (1948-51), Wally Westlake (1952-55), Gene Woodling (1955-56), Jim Busby (1956-57), Jim Perry (1959-75), Paul Dade (1977), Steve Olin (1990-92).

Photo: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 99
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 90 – Adam Cimber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 88
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 63
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32

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