AKRON, Ohio – The Cleveland Indians’ injured starting pitcher Danny Salazar has been on a long path in his attempt to return to the majors. But he took an important step Thursday.
Salazar’s first live minor-league action since the 2017 playoffs was a rehab start Thursday night for the Akron RubberDucks at Canal Park. Over 2 2/3 innings, Salazar gave up one earned run on 46 pitches against the Bowie Baysox, the Baltimore Orioles’ Double-A affiliate.
Salazar threw 27 strikes, walking one and giving up two hits. He was expected to throw three innings, but the Baysox got two on base with two outs after Salazar walked left fielder Ryan McKenna in the third, and Salazar was removed.
Salazar is rehabbing his surgically-repaired right shoulder, which led to missing the entire season in 2018 and the surgery 12 months ago.
Salazar said his shoulder felt good, and he’s focusing on how he feels between innings.
“I’m happy. The road has been really long. I was on it for the past 18 months,” he said outside the Akron clubhouse. “And being back here in Akron, and feeling the way I’m feeling right now, it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Salazar’s last major-league appearance was Oct. 9, 2017, when he threw 1 2/3 innings during Game 4 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees. Before Thursday’s game, Indians manager Terry Francona said it’d be interesting to see how Salazar responds playing with the RubberDucks, as the atmosphere would be different than pitching in Arizona Rookie League, where he has had two starts covering 4.1 innings.
In Arizona, Salazar built his confidence against the rawest young pros. Thursday offered better competition. As he continues his rehab, he’s eager to return to the majors.
“Right now, I can’t wait to make it to Cleveland again,” he said, admitting that there’s no certainty to his timetable yet. He has 30 days to work in the minors before he can return to Cleveland. He will likely see action in Akron, with the Lake County Captains or in Mahoning Valley with the Scrappers before finally getting on the mound with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.
Salazar has pitched for the Indians since making his MLB debut in 2013, and has 104 major-league starts.