Cleveland’s bullpen was a mess all of the 2018 season.
Countless relievers were used over the 162 game schedule. Some starters were plugged in certain spots to help out in relief, too.
The trade for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber certainly helped after the All-Star break. But Andrew Miller and Cody Allen were not at all their usual selves. Allen struggled with command issues and Miller missed a majority of the season with multiple injuries.
The starting rotation was as dominant as any in the league. Cleveland had four starters with over 200 strikeouts (the first time that has happened in MLB history).
Someone that figured to play a big part in the Indians pitching staff was right-hander Danny Salazar. Salazar was going to be competing for a spot in the starting rotation until he needed shoulder surgery. He did not see any game action in 2018 and should be able to begin throwing again next month.
Last year, he appeared in 23 games with 19 starts and the season before that he started all 25 games he pitched in and was named to the All-Star team. Salazar missed the last few weeks of the regular season and only pitched in two games in the postseason, both in the World Series.
When healthy, Salazar can get his fastball up in the mid-90s range and strikes out batters at a high clip. In his five years, Salazar has 686 K’s (a career high 195 in 2015) and has a strikeout per nine innings rate at 10.5.
With plenty of questions surrounding the Indians roster, and more specifically bullpen next season, could Salazar be moved there?
Both Miller and Allen are free agents when the MLB offseason officially starts after the World Series. Will Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff be willing to bring one or both of those relievers back? Their stocks may have dropped after a rough 2018 season. Cleveland may be able to offer less than expected and retain them.
Miller and/or Allen would help the bullpen situation, but it would not fix it entirely based on the struggles this past season.
Giving Salazar a spot in the bullpen, with or without Miller or Allen back, would help strengthen the bullpen, which figures to give the Indians some fits.
He is no stranger to pitching in relief, either. As noted earlier, he pitched in the World Series in 2016, both appearances out of the ‘pen. In Game 2, he went one inning not giving up a run and walking two. In Game 6, he went two shutout innings, striking out four, allowing one hit and no runs.
2017, he saw four relief outings in the regular season and one in the ALDS. He only pitched 5.2 innings and threw 95 pitches and giving up just one run.
Salazar would have to get used to pitching out of the bullpen on a regular basis and not on every fifth day. He would give Terry Francona someone to use as a set-up man for Cimber and Hand and even someone who could pitch two or more innings.
Again, moving Salazar out of the rotation may not completely fix the problems with the relievers, but it would greatly help that group out.
Shane Bieber seems to be the fifth starter in the rotation, and he deserves that spot. But Salazar is one of the Tribe’s better pitchers when he is healthy, in which he should be by next season.
Give the former All-Star a shot in relief. It could pay big dividends.