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Salazar 'speaks' volumes with strong outing

Indians righty stays focused using his own pre-pitch pep talk
MLB.com @MLBastian

MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians right-hander Danny Salazar started to feel like he was rushing through his delivery in Tuesday night's start against the Twins. In searching for a solution, he found something that worked: Salazar began talking to himself on the mound.

As the game wore on, cameras began to zoom in on Salazar during some of his pre-pitch mumbling -- verbal cues that helped hone his focus on each throw. That played a small role in Salazar's seven strong innings in the Tribe's 8-1 victory, though he noted on Wednesday afternoon that he has used the approach in previous outings.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians right-hander Danny Salazar started to feel like he was rushing through his delivery in Tuesday night's start against the Twins. In searching for a solution, he found something that worked: Salazar began talking to himself on the mound.

As the game wore on, cameras began to zoom in on Salazar during some of his pre-pitch mumbling -- verbal cues that helped hone his focus on each throw. That played a small role in Salazar's seven strong innings in the Tribe's 8-1 victory, though he noted on Wednesday afternoon that he has used the approach in previous outings.

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"I always do it," Salazar said with a laugh. "Last night, I just did it more than usual."

Salazar said his main reason for talking to himself out loud before firing a pitch in other outings was to harness his aggressiveness in certain situations. In Tuesday's win, the goal of the self-coaching was to keep him more controlled throughout his throwing motion. Salazar said he started talking to himself in the third inning while facing Brian Dozier, and kept it going for the rest of the game.

So, what was Salazar saying?

"'Slow. Up. Set. And go,' every single pitch," Salazar said. "If I say it in my mind, and then something happens, it goes away quickly. So, I was just trying to talk to myself."

Tweet from @MLBastian: What was Salazar saying between pitches? "Slow, up, set, and go.' ... I started saying that to myself. I started throwing the ball better." pic.twitter.com/QfflVWJUgp

Salazar explained that "slow" refers to remaining deliberate in the movement with his left leg at the very beginning of his delivery. When he becomes too quick at the start, it can cause a negative chain reaction. The "up" is in reference to staying balanced when he raises his drive leg. The "set" is a cue to feel his positioning on his back leg and the "go" refers to staying under control as he propels himself forward.

Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said those verbal reminders have helped Salazar concentrate on keeping his motion the same whether throwing from the windup or stretch.

"I know he's pitched really well," Callaway said. "But, we've been noticing he has a little bit of a different delivery in the stretch and in the windup. That can lead to some inconsistencies. Most of the time, you wouldn't say things to guys when they're on kind of a roll, but we feel like we need to attack this one before it starts to make him pitch bad. Some of those things, I think he's kind of thinking about when he's out there."

Or, talking about. Whatever works.

Against the Twins, Salazar allowed one run on three hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Dating to July 22, when he came off the disabled list after a two-month comeback from a right shoulder issue, Salazar has turned in a 1.39 ERA over five starts (32 1/3 innings). In that recent stretch, he has posted a 38-percent strikeout rate, 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings, a 5.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 0.84 WHIP, while limiting hitters to a .161/.223/.223 slash line.

"Doing the same thing every single pitch, that's good for me," Salazar said. "It's like you're controlling your mind and you're controlling your pitches."

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

Cleveland Indians, Danny Salazar