The Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff was dealt a big blow on Tuesday afternoon when the club placed reliever Andrew Miller and starting pitcher Danny Salazar on the 10-day disabled list.
In corresponding roster moves, the Indians recalled reliever Shawn Armstrong and utility man Yandy Diaz from Triple-A Columbus to fill the vacancies on the roster.
Miller exited his relief appearance on Monday night quickly in just his second appearance since being activated from the disabled list last Friday. After throwing seven straight fastballs (just two for strikes) at a velocity notably lower than his stuff traditionally carries, he came out of the game.
Miller was already out for 16 days due to the same right knee patellar tendinitis. His absence at the time was buffered some by an impressive run by the starting rotation that limited the need to dig too deep into the bullpen, allowing the other workhorses of the relief staff, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, to keep the ship afloat.
Armstrong returns to the Cleveland roster a little earlier than expected. Thought to be one of the club’s primary September call-ups when rosters expand in a little over a week, the right-hander was recalled by the Tribe for the sixth time this season. He had appeared in 18 games for the Indians, posting a 1-0 record with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP, and last pitched for the club on July 31.
Miller’s loss leaves the Indians’ bullpen noticeably thin on the left-handed pitching front. Tyler Olson is the only southpaw on the pitching staff at present. The ranks are thin at Columbus, where the Clippers bullpen has just Kyle Crockett and veteran Craig Breslow. Crockett is 5-5 on the season in 47 appearances with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks in 45 innings. Breslow has worked in six games since signing with the club and has posted a 4.91 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP. With injuries to two starting pitchers already, it would seem unlikely that the Indians would look to the likes of Ryan Merritt, Shawn Morimando, or even Chris Narveson as candidates to move from the minor league rotation into the Major League bullpen.
Salazar is said to be dealing with right elbow inflammation after a rough start his last time out against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. He allowed a career-high 12 hits in the loss and gave up six runs in just four and two-thirds innings, a stark contrast from his previous five outings since returning from his first stint on the disabled list this season. That injury, a right shoulder issue, kept him sidelined from June 4 to July 22, but he had posted a 1.39 ERA with 46 strikeouts and nine walks over 32 1/3 innings while earning a pair of wins since rejoining the rotation.
The 27-year-old right-hander, who had shown glimpses of being the dominant starter that he was in the first half of last season on the way to being named an American League All-Star for the first time in his career, was dealing with stiffness in the elbow during the day Tuesday and shared after his last start against Kansas City that he did not have the power on his fastball that he has had at other times since returning from the DL.
Salazar will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of his injury. He is 5-6 on the season in 18 games (16 starts) with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.
Merritt is expected to be recalled from Columbus on Friday to make a spot start in Salazar’s absence. Josh Tomlin, who is on the disabled list with a left hamstring sprain, could make a rehab start on Friday and make his return to the rotation in that slot in the rotation in the near future, which could help the Indians endure an extended loss of Salazar.
Diaz will provide some insurance on the roster for Carlos Santana, who is dealing with tightness in his lower back. The 26-year-old, who can fill spots in the infield and outfield, started the season on the Indians roster but found his way back to Columbus on April 21. He rejoined the team for a little over a week in May, but has been at the Triple-A level since. As he has throughout his minor league career, Diaz has hit the ball well again this season, slashing .350/.454/.460 in 85 games for Columbus with 17 doubles, one triple, five homers, and 33 RBI.
In 19 games for the Tribe, he put up a .194/.257/.209 line at the plate with a double and three RBI.
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