GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training on Feb. 12, Danny Salazar was confident he would be able to return to Major League game activity by the All-Star break. Now, he’s optimistic he’ll be in Cleveland even sooner.
Salazar’s last appearance came in Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS against the Yankees. He then dealt with right rotator cuff tendinitis at the start of last season before undergoing arthroscopic surgery in July.
Last month, his goal was to get on the mound before the end of camp and he’s started to slowly build his way there, getting a little bit of work off the rubber. Although he’s not throwing a complete bullpen session just yet, Salazar said he thinks he will get there in about two weeks.
“I have my mindset set up for something or to be close, and I’m really close right now,” Salazar said.
Because of his progress, the 29-year-old hurler believes he could rejoin the Indians by June.
“Amazing,” Salazar said when asked how he feels now compared to the start of camp. “I’m doing good. I’m throwing better and making progress. I’m throwing off the mound, half way, which means I’m [moving] in the right way right now.”
Salazar seems both pleased and relieved to be starting to see a light at the end of this long, exhausting journey, but he was just as excited to be back with his teammates these last six weeks.
“Sometimes it gets hard for me watching the games on TV,” Salazar said. “I just followed it by like watching the notifications on my phone. But sometimes you’re just like, 'I want to be there, I want to be helping the team and doing what I like to do.' But seeing the team back here at Spring Training, gave me like a little breath. I feel like part of the team right now, so we’re like all together.”
The team will be departing for two exhibition games in Texas on Monday and Tuesday, but Salazar believes if he stays patient, he’ll keep himself on a path to be back with his teammates in the near future. For now, he’s preparing for his 15th-straight month in Goodyear.
“I’m running for mayor now,” Salazar joked.
Hanley settling in at right time
Hanley Ramirez has until Sunday to prove to the Indians that he’s ready to be back in Major League Baseball after being released by the Red Sox last May. In Friday’s 8-3 win against the Cubs at Goodyear Ballpark, he did just about everything he could to prove there’s still life left in his bat, going 3-for-4 with two homers and an RBI double.
“That was impressive,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You know, we’ve got some big decisions to make. That was really good to see, though. We’re actually going to go back and talk a little bit after the game.”
Along with the announcements that Francisco Lindor and Bradley Zimmer will open the 2019 season on the injured list and the news that Jason Kipnis will be shut down for the next 7-10 days with a mild right calf strain, the club also optioned catcher Eric Haase back to Triple-A.
“We thought so much of him that we had several conversations about maybe configuring our team where he would make it," Francona said. "We ultimately thought if he’s playing sparingly in April in Cleveland, we’re setting him up for failure. It’s a little bit like Oscar [Mercado]. You’re playing a kid once or twice a week with very little Major League experience, it’s normally cold, he’s not gonna be catching, he needs to be in Triple-A catching.
“He had a terrific camp. And I don’t think it was just a terrific camp, I think he worked hard to work on his swing where he’s getting balls that he didn’t used to get to. And he’s a very dangerous hitter, and his defense has come light years. He’s a kid that we love.”
Plan for CarGo
Because there are only four exhibition games left, the Indians will need to get their regulars more innings to prepare for the start of the season, which means Carlos Gonzalez will get his work in Minor League games. He is scheduled to DH on Saturday and will play again Sunday.
Ready to feel old?
The Indians got a sneak peek of what’s to come with their No. 7 prospect, Brayan Rocchio, per MLB Pipeline. The 18-year-old Venezuela native, who was born in 2001, hit .335 with an .832 OPS in 60 rookie ball games last season. He started at shortstop for the Indians on Friday and played all nine innings, going 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI.
“I thought that was one of the funnest parts of the whole Spring Training,” Francona said. “I mean, I went out to take out one of our pitchers and I looked around the infield and said, ‘I bet you I might be older than all four of you together. I wasn’t, but it was close. That was fun. That was a treat.”
The Indians will play their final home game of the spring on Saturday against the Reds. Cleveland righty Trevor Bauer will start against Cincinnati right-hander Tyler Mahle. First pitch is slated for 4:05 p.m. ET at Goodyear Ballpark.