Plutko shared SoCal bond, No. 45 with Skaggs

July 3rd, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Indians right-hander could hardly process the tragic news on Monday when he learned that his friend and Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had died suddenly in Texas.

"I haven't been able to put the words together the last day or so," Plutko said on Tuesday. "It's so shocking."

As highly regarded baseball prospects in Southern California, Plutko and Skaggs originally came to know each other while playing pickup games on the scouting circuit. Then, the friendship went to a different level in 2013, when the pitchers worked out together in the offseason.

"On the tough days when you really didn't want to be there and were such a grind, Tyler always called himself the spark plug," Plutko recalled. "He would play music, dance around and get everybody laughing. It would make things a little easier that day."

Skaggs attended Plutko's wedding and the pair shared a common bond of wearing No. 45 in the Major Leagues.

"Ty would always have these little sayings that would make you laugh," Plutko said. "When he got traded from the Diamondbacks to the Angels and wore No. 45, he said he was [Michael] Jordan on the comeback."

Jordan wore No. 45 when he returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995 after a brief transition from basketball to baseball.

Plutko also wound up with No. 45 wearing an Indians uniform.

"When my number was 45 as I came up the first time, the first person I thought of was Ty," Plutko said. "He was just an unbelievable person. He was so full of life."

Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who picked up the win in the Indians' 9-5 victory on Tuesday, played with Skaggs in the D-backs' organization.

"We honor him by playing the game he loved," said Bauer, who wrote Skaggs' initials and No. 45 on the left side of his cap. "By competing. That's the best tribute we can give him."

Salazar's start

Right-hander 's rehab assignment went well on Sunday as he threw 1 2/3 innings and struck out five in the Arizona Rookie League.

"He's going to stay there for one more start and then he'll start his five-day progression in Akron," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Francona said it's to be determined whether Salazar will resurface as a starter or a reliever.

"I'm not sure we have the answer to that," Francona said. "The way he throws will tell us that."

Salazar had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on July 2, 2018. His pitch count will rise as he goes along.

"It will climb, though it may not climb as fast as normal, depending on how he's doing," Francona said.