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Q&A: Antonetti on Tribe's 'pen, Salazar, more

May 17, 2018

The final strike thrown by closer Cody Allen on Wednesday afforded the Indians the ability to take a collective deep breath. That put the period on a drama-free 6-0 victory over the Tigers, pulling the American League Central leaders' record up to the break-even mark of 21-21.During the Tribe's series

The final strike thrown by closer Cody Allen on Wednesday afforded the Indians the ability to take a collective deep breath. That put the period on a drama-free 6-0 victory over the Tigers, pulling the American League Central leaders' record up to the break-even mark of 21-21.
During the Tribe's series in the Motor City, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti sat down for a wide-ranging session, addressing the bullpen -- which has an MLB-high 5.68 ERA through the season's first quarter -- the team's approach to fixing the problem and whether Danny Salazar might be an option in the second half.
Q: How do you assess the bullpen when it seems like you have a new face every day right now? I'm sure it's difficult to gauge how to use the new pieces and when to trust them.
Antonetti: It's a really hard thing to do. I feel for [manager Terry Francona] a lot of nights, to mix and match and figure out the best guys to get in the best situations. It was especially difficult in the time where Andrew [Miller] was out, because bridging those innings, especially in those tight games or games where we have a lead, is a tough thing for us to do. It's something we're still in the process of trying to figure out.
Q: This isn't the time of year when teams are really in sell mode, so do you have to approach it as assessing how the trade market might shape up?
Antonetti: A couple things. In terms of doing things in the near-term, the likelihood of that is low. Any trade of consequence, it's very rare that those happen in May or June. The bulk of our solutions are going to come from guys within the organization already. If there are opportunities to acquire guys like Oliver Drake, or other guys that may be available on waiver wires or get designated, that's more the type of move that will happen over the course of the next few months. But, we are actively in the process of planning for those next few months and trying to assess which players might be available and could potentially help our team. Part of that, those needs can change over time. That's why we try to be pretty comprehensive looking at what options might be out there for us to improve, so we have the information we need to make the decisions we do.
Q: What were some challenges in trying to sign relievers over the offseason? Did free-agents see a lack of opportunity, given how much of your bullpen appeared locked into place?
Antonetti: I think in terms of Minor League free agents, opportunity is difficult. They're looking at our bullpen thinking, "Hey, if I've got to go in and compete for a spot, those guys have got pretty good track records." On the Major League free-agent front, we just had very finite resources that we had available to allocate, and we have to make choices on where to allocate those elements. We are in a season where we have a franchise-record payroll. It's not a lack of resources. It's just that every team has a finite amount that they can spend. For us, we chose to do that by keeping a lot of our guys in place. We returned our entire starting rotation, we got the bulk of our position players back and some of our high-leverage and best relievers. Again, that necessitated we needed to make some choices.
Q: Will you feel like you have a much better sense of how realistic your internal options are by the time you get into July?
Antonetti: I think over the next couple of months, we'll get a very clear handle on what we have internally and how those guys may be able to help us in the second half. There will be opportunities for guys to play and pitch on both sides of the ball. We're hopeful that guys will take advantage of that and perform well.
Q: What can you tell us about where Salazar is in his rehab and his chances of coming back from his right shoulder injury?
Antonetti: I think everybody would like it to happen more quick, for him to get back healthy and pitching the way he's capable of. It just hasn't happened. We're hopeful that after the injection Danny received, and now that he's ramping up his throwing, this will be that time where he's actually able to clear that hurdle and ramp up to the intensity he needs to pitch in a Major League game. It just hasn't happened yet, but he could be a big part of our team in the second half.
Q: Has this gone on longer than you expected when the injury first happened over the winter?
Antonetti: We didn't really have a sense. I know it was probably frustrating for you guys that we didn't really have a great timetable, but that was as honest as we could be. This is just how it's played out. When you're dealing with shoulders, especially, it can be really complicated to try to guess what it is.
Q: Are you still planning on building Salazar up as a starter? Or might he be an option for a relief role?
Antonetti: I think right now, we're looking at how we get Danny healthy. Let's get him healthy. Let's get him throwing regular bullpens. Let's get his intensity up to the point that he's at a spot, competitively, where he can pitch at the Major League level. Once we start clearing some of those hurdles, we can assess if that's going to be more likely in the rotation or more likely in the bullpen. Some of that's going to be dependent upon what's happening with the Major League team.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.