Salazar nearing return to mound for Indians

Right-hander missed all of 2018 season with rotator cuff injury

February 12th, 2019
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar winds up during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- hasn't made a big league appearance since Game 4 of the 2017 American League Division Series against the Yankees, but the right-hander is hoping his return to the Indians is near.

On Tuesday, Salazar said he is just playing catch, but he hopes to be back on the mound by the end of Spring Training, and he thinks that he's in a good place right now to accomplish that goal. If he's able to do so, Salazar believers he will be able to pitch in a Major League game prior to the All-Star break.

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"We're taking it day by day, week by week," Salazar said. "Shoulder surgery, they're like tough. One day you come here feeling amazing, the next day you're sore, and we're just trying to take it day by day right now."

Salazar has been waiting for the Tribe to report to camp since last Spring Training, having stayed in Arizona to rehab after being placed on the 10-day injured list with right rotator cuff tendinitis at the start of last season. He was then transferred to the 60-day injured list on May 3, and he had arthroscopic surgery in July. Now that he's been reunited with his teammates, the itch to get back is only growing stronger.

"Sometimes you feel like you want to rush because it really gets in your head," Salazar said. "But being in contact with my teammates, the front office and the Major League managing staff, it really helps because you know they really have your back and they're working with you so you can get back."

Over the past few weeks, Salazar said he's experienced the most progress, which is why he is optimistic that he will be back on the mound before the end of camp. The 29-year-old also mentioned that the pain in his shoulder is not as bad or happening as regularly as it was prior to the past few weeks.

"When you're doing too much you can feel it," Salazar said. "You're gonna feel fatigue or you're gonna feel like pain, but I think we've been doing the right thing."

In 2017, Salazar logged a 4.28 ERA in 23 games, including 19 starts, and he averaged 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. In '16, he earned his first All-Star Game selection and he finished the year with a 3.87 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 137 1/3 frames. With the team's projected rotation consisting of , , , and Shane Bieber, there's not as immediate of a need for Salazar to rush back. When he's healthy enough to return, Salazar could be an option out of the bullpen. He has had stints on the injured list in the past, including nearly two months in 2017 with right shoulder soreness, but none have kept him away from the game this long.

"It's tough like when you have to be out for a month and it's been tougher having to be out for a whole year, especially when you're seeing the team that is doing so well," Salazar said. "You want to be there, you want to help ... being out of that, it's tough, but at the same time you have to know what your position is at the time and what you have to do if you want to get there again."