Royals 8, Indians 2: Salazar falls apart early once again

Danny Salazar

The Indians have a problem. I won’t sit here and sugarcoat it. To me, it is a big problem. Right now 40% of their starting rotation cannot be counted on. It is one thing to not be able to pitch deep into games. It is another when said 40% can’t get out of the fifth inning on a regular basis. It is even worse when one of the two starters is being counted on to be the future of the front end.

Right now Danny Salazar is a mess. A lot of expectation was bestowed on the Tribe’s right-handed phenom after he burst onto the season with 11 starts at the end of 2013. We all know about his high-90’s fastball and the devastating change-up that come from the same arm action. What we didn’t know was how the kid would respond to being anointed the next big thing in the Indians rotation.

After lengthy bullpen work with pitching coach Mickey Callaway and conversations with both Callaway and manager Terry Francona after his last start in Detroit, Salazar was hoping to emerge as the guy we saw come up and be an instant impact a season ago.  Instead, Danny did what Danny has done thus far – look great the first time through an order before losing it.

“The first three innings he was real aggressive,” said Francona. “He stuck some fastballs and off of that he threw some really powerful breaking balls.”

But then came the fourth.

Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler started the inning with back to back singles. Salazar came back to get Alex Gordon to pop out in front of a big K of Salvador Perez. That left two on and two out for the slumping Mike Moustakas, who entered the game hitting .133. As Salazar has done too many times thus far, he left a high change-up right in Moustakas’s wheelhouse and he tattooed it for a three-run homer. Moustakas crushed it like he knew it was coming. It was the fifth home run Salazar has allowed in his four starts, spanning just 18.1 inning pitched.

“With my change-up sometimes, I open up my glove too much,” Salazar said. “That’s the only thing I’ve noticed. Sometimes, I just try to, when I’m going to throw my fastball, I try to open my glove, too, just to try to confuse. I think sometimes I forget.”

A frustrated Salazar then gave up a single to Alcedes Escobar. With two out, Escobar stole second an advanced to third thanks to another errant throw by catcher Yan Gomes, who now has six errors on the season. Speedy center fielder Jarrod Dyson then laid down a bunt base hit past Salazar for the fourth two-out run of the inning. After giving up back to back one out doubles in the fifth to Hosmer and Butler, Danny’s night was over.

“I’m out there competing the whole game. I guess some pitches didn’t work,” Salazar said. “I’ve been feeling great — strong. I’m aggressive out there compared to last time I pitched. Today, I just felt like every pitch, I was totally focused on throwing it and on being aggressive.”

In his four starts, Salazar has only pitched past five innings once and that was in the home opener April 4th when he went five and two-thirds. His last three starts he has given up 14 earned runs on 19 hits in 12.2 innings of work. It is still early in the season, but you have to be concerned about the regression.

“It’s a short sample size,” Francona said. “We can’t forget last year when he was pitching, he was on a pretty strict limit for health reasons. So now he’s starting to get stretched out a little bit. It’s been a while since he’s done that. He’s never done it at the Major League level, so sometimes you have to be patient.”

He expounded.

“I don’t always want to put it on youth, because this is a kid we gave the ball to in the playoff game [last year]. But I do think, with health and experience, he’s going to learn how to do this better. I think right now he’s having a tough time and he’s getting tested a little bit.”

QUOTEA 5-1 lead was more than enough for Royals ace James Shields, whom the Indians haven’t beaten in almost three years. He went six innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out nine and walked one. Relievers Danny Duffy and and Aaron Crow held the Tribe scoreless over the last three innings in the 8-2 loss.

The postgame talk was all about Salazar. What can the Indians do to get him right? What can he do himself? Something has to change because as of right now, Danny is essentially a three-inning pitcher.

“Danny has the weapons to go through a lineup multiple times,” said Francona. “This is more about executing pitches.”

His teammates were more than willing to line up to have his back as well. “It’s growing pains,” Nick Swisher said. “This is his first real go-around. We have the utmost trust in him. He has plus stuff. When he figures it out, it’s going to be a lot of fun to be on this side. He’s a young cat. He’s going to figure it out.”

Salazar is going to have to figure it out if this team is going to compete in the AL Central. Between Danny and Carlos Carrasco, you truly don’t know what you are going to be getting from two of your five starters. Down in Columbus last night, Trevor Bauer did not have his best stuff but still allowed just one run in six and two-thirds in the Clippers 11-1 win over Gwinnett. He struck out six and walked three and in three AAA starts has an ERA of 0.96. The Indians have him in line on the same day as Salazar, possibly suggesting they could make a move at some point. Josh Tomlin is still lined up with Carrasco. He’s made three starts as well and has an ERA of 4.00 and has uncharacteristically walked nine in 18 innings.

Tonight the Tribe looks to get to their winning ways as they meet KC for game three of the four-game set. Justin Masterson (0-0. 4.98 ERA), who is still looking for his first win of the season, takes the ball for the Indians. He will be facing Royals lefty Jason Vargas (2-0, 1.24 ERA).

 (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

  • boomhauertjs

    Hammy said before the game that Francona and Callaway were confident that Salazar would have a good start. I just wonder if keeping Salazar here to work with Callaway will be more beneficial to him than pitching in AAA. Of course, you can’t do that if it is costing the team games and wearing out the bullpen.

  • Garry_Owen

    So after we dispense with the obligatory sentiments of “short sample sizes” and notions that “the season is still young,” can we now start acknowledging that this team, with this rotation, is in serious trouble? (TD’s first paragraph opens this door, I think.)

  • Natedawg86

    You are ready to send Salazar to AAA? I would rather see Carasco headed down than Danny. We don’t have a ton of ready arms to come up and contribute. If only we had Haren…ha

  • JNeids

    Salazar pitches the first 3 innings, Carrasco pitches 4-6, then turn it over to the bullpen. Boom!

  • Harv 21

    This is not uncommon for young stud pitchers once the league has video of their starts. Major league hitters can hit almost anyone’s stuff if they’re not kept off-balance.

    It’s April and he’s the future. Leave him in the rotation and let him scuffle through his learning curve unless and until he either shows he’s too stubborn or starts losing his confidence. Even Randy Johnson’s stuff was getting hit early on. He can’t learn this at AAA. If you stick him in the bullpen or send him down you’re telling him you won’t give him some starts to learn, that you don’t believe in him as a starter. Don’t tell him that in freakin’ April.

  • Natedawg86

    I don’t know how they fix it either. Salazar just needs to pitch better, send Carasco down and Bauer up? I dunno.

  • Brian R.

    Carasco is out of options, he’ll go to the bullpen- which suits him better. Salazar needs something, and trotting him out there to get shelled every five days is not going to help his psyche. Bauer needs to get a chance sooner than later though.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    It sounds like Danny thinks he’s tipping pitches with his glove action. Seems like an “easy” fix, if that is indeed the only problem, that shouldn’t require AAA work.

  • vespo09

    I have a bigger problem with where the offense is so far than the rotation. The rotation was supposed to be average, and it’s been a little subpar. The offense is supposed to be a big plus, but it’s also been subpar.

    Santana is walking a lot, but only hitting .136. The Elliot Johnson/Nyjer Morgan issue has been beaten to death, but it’s still true. Cabrera just doesn’t have what he used to at the plate, and Bourn isn’t up to speed yet after the early injury.

    I have more faith in the offense coming around than the rotation, and as long as we hang around .500 until it does I think we’ll be ok.

  • mgbode

    yeah, we have to let him work it out. it stinks he is struggling especially when guys like Cingrani and Gray are still pitching well this season (his peers in development), but nothing we can do but hope he works it out.

    Carrasco, on the other hand, has had a longer leash now and needs to go to the bullpen. Time for Trevor.

  • mgbode

    7th most runs/game in the AL isn’t great, but not that far from where we expected to be. As the weather warms, hopefully the bats do a bit too. It won’t matter if we don’t fix the rotation though.

    Of course, this time last year, the rotation was MUCH more of a mess than it currently sits.

  • mgbode

    maybe they meant “good start to the game” ?

    :)

  • WFNYJon

    These are my sentiments exactly. There are so many reasons *not* to send him down:

    * What if this is anomalous? We’re talking about a 15 inning sample, yes?

    * Are the hitters in Columbus good enough to punish his mistakes? If not, will he really learn the lessons he needs to learn there?

    * There are A TON of examples of dominant starting pitchers that struggle as the league begins to adjust to them. Here’s sample I tweeted out from Sabathia’s second season, but BR is dripping with these sorts of things: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=sabatc.01&t=p&year=2002&share=2.65#37-39-sum:pitching_gamelogs

    * Are we sure Bauer is over his issues? Because jerking these guys back and forth isn’t really helping either of them.

    * Since 2012 Josh Tomlin’s ERA is 6.24. He is not the annointed one.

    It’s not that I necessarily want to keep Salazar (or Carrasco for that matter) in the rotation indefinitely, but I want more than a handful of noisy innings before I make that call.

  • a_foreign_film

    as a cleveland fan, i hate (but can tolerate) all the things that make up the poor play on the field (awful hitting, inept fielding, atrocious starting pitching). that’s just baseball. poor play happens.

    what i CAN’T tolerate is the baffling bullheadedness by francona and the front office, who both refuse to address roster or lineup construction issues that could mitigate some of the hideous play we’ve seen so far:

    – running effectively the same batting lineup out there every day and expecting a new result is infuriating. the lineup is one of the few areas the manager truly has direct control over and he refuses to consider that maybe a lineup that’s consistently struggling to score 2-3 runs a game just might need to be tweaked. bourn and swisher are lighting it up at 1-2! keep them there! make sure santana’s batting cleanup so he can ground into more double plays! keep the only guys hitting mired in the 7-9 spots!

    – even casual cleveland fans have known for a least a year that carrasco is not a starter – but let’s keep him in the rotation, further exhasuting in the bullpen with every start!

    – the bizarre toleration of a “starter” who can’t successfully pitch through the the 5th inning and who even the quickest eye test would reveal as someone who has no pitches besides a fastball. again, let’s keep punishing that bullpen.

    – a bench that’s 50% comprised of absolute deadweight – elliot johnson and jason giambi – a guy who’s never hit, and a guy who can’t hit anymore (AND can’t play the field). johnson, whose biggest contribution this year has been a pathetic bunt attempt, is so bad that even crazy francona won’t risk playing him – so why on earth is he on the team? there is no way there aren’t two guys at AAA who’d be better than these two bums. but hey, at least “veteran presence” addresses the issue of bourn at the top of the lineup helplessly flailing at curves, or something.

    i’m getting really tired of the fluff pieces everyday on indians.com that are “francona confident in hideously struggling player X” or “team knows awful player Y will turn it around”

  • Steve

    I think we could have acknowledged that before the season even started. The rotation, which wasn’t as strong as people think last year, was always going to be a concern, and really, the big concern.

  • Steve

    If only we were to bat Kipnis, Chisenhall, and Brantley, probably the three “hottest” hitters at the moment at 3-4-5, we’d score a ton of runs. Or maybe just four like what happened on Monday.

    Get it out. It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.

  • Steve

    I want to see Salazar not get BABIP-ed for at least a short stretch. 420 BABIP against. I know that he’s getting hit pretty hard, and the defense isn’t great, but that kind of mark just doesn’t keep up. A few more balls find gloves instead of holes, and Salazar is getting a bit deeper in games, and maybe can get on a bit of a roll more often.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    In a perfect world except they would then need one or more of the other starters to at least go seven innings and frankly, right now, I think that’s alot to ask.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Carrasco has a much larger sample size like a couple seasons. I understand the hesitance on Bauer I agree the shuttling of him back and forth isn’t a great idea. But the Indians set themselves up for this sort of thing by having such a young and undependable starting rotation. They got away with it a year ago but they should have planned for the likelihood that they wouldn’t be so lucky another year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This message brought to you by the Indians apologist at WFNY!

  • Steve

    There’s no apology there. I’m demonstrating that this team is so far down the crapper than even when they do set the ideal lineup, they can still only score 4 runs. Woe is us!

  • nj0

    Call me in June.

  • Harv 21

    Carrasco has pretty much proven that right now he cannot control his emotions and cannot think his way through the second time through the lineup. As late as last year his juvenile impulse was to hit guys who hit him, even after a suspension and demotion. I get why Francona salivates at the thought of him using three great pitches as a starter when short relief really needs just two, but as long as Carlos channels his inner 13 year-old on the hill he’s a reliever at this level.

  • nj0

    Our pitchers suck because our defense sucks. So says Fangraphs. GIF bloopers included. (Not sure if this has been mentioned here.)

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-indians-are-missing-the-easy-ones/

  • Harv 21

    wow, CC was getting haaammered that April. I vaguely remember similar reasons – “wow, you can resist my high heat? Ok, try my 12-6 curve. Nobody can deal with both.” Behind in counts, overthrowing, middle of the plate, boom.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Your reverse psychology has no effect on me Charles!

    http://splashpage.mtv.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/082409_magneto.jpg

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • mgbode

    a year ago they had planned on a much more veteran staff with Ubaldo, Kazmir (though a wild card), and Myers (though a train wreck). the youth were supplements. this year, the youth are the main course.

  • mgbode

    it is no doubt a big reason thus far.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I hear ya but I just think they needed a veteran around to at the worst eat innings. Hence my love for Aaron Harang. Now I’m hoping we see Bauer and not Tomlin up with Carrasco moving to the bullpen once and for all. I’m just cautious on Bauer because of what Jon said about the yo-yo effect for him.

  • mgbode

    I’d worry about the yo-yo with some pitchers, but not Bauer. The dude doesn’t seem to care what people think and doesn’t seem to stress about much. That is a good place to be when you are a SP.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Bauer made another quality start in Columbus the clock has to be ticking on when we’ll see him in Cleveland!

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_isUvlzkZPIQ/S61Sz4jZY4I/AAAAAAAAGEA/Gi4W49g61ic/s1600/24wallpaper1.jpg

  • mgbode

    make Giambi a coach to free up the extra roster spot.

  • nj0

    Overreactions to small sample sizes aside, I do have to wonder how much sub-par play the organization will take before a change of course. I think Aguilar, Ramirez, and Bauer have all played well enough in Columbus to make their case for getting a shot in the Bigs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I thought this last year but obviously Francona likes him as an option.

  • nj0

    You really can’t say enough how bad our infield defense is. Gomes was supposed to be the bright spot, but he’s neck and neck with Swisher for the worst so far. All five spots have below average to terrible defenders. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if those same guys were producing offensively, which they’re not (okay, Gomes and Kipnis sort of).

  • nj0

    Please don’t check the Atlanta/Miami box score for today.

  • a_foreign_film

    it’d just be nice to see some awareness that batting guys who aren’t hitting 1-2 over and over again isn’t a great plan. watching “tablesetters” who should be working deep into counts and/or drawing walks insist on swinging at the first pitch (typically for weak groundouts or feeble flies to shallow center) or waving pathetically at 3 pitches in a row for a K tends to drive a guy crazy after a while.

    bourn really shouldn’t ever be hitting first, but it’s particularly galling the way he’s playing right now.

  • mgbode

    and defensive efficiency was supposed to be the next target of stat-heads. I guess our FO is one step ahead of that trend.

  • Jason Hurley

    If he’s inconsistent with his glove being open… close the damn glove for every pitch!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Boy Aaron Harang looked good again, today!