You know what? This is a bold move, and it could blow up completely, but I love it. I absolutely love it.
Rookie right-hander Danny Salazar will take Ubaldo Jimenez's spot in the rotation Wednesday to face Detroit in the third game of a big series between the top two teams in the AL Central.
Jimenez has been pushed back to Friday's start against the Angels.
For those who don't know Salazar's background: he had Tommy John surgery in August 2010, and didn't pitch much at all in 2011. The Indians brought him along very slowly in 2012, usually limiting him to 3-4 innings per appearance. This season, they've still limited his innings/start somewhat, but he's generally gone 5-6 innings per start in AA and AAA. The inning limitations were put in place so that he can pitch most of the season without blowing past 120 innings or so.
Before the surgery Salazar was thought of as one of the best arms in the system, and now that he's a couple years clear of the surgery, his stuff is a good as ever. He's certainly ready to pitch in the big leagues, but he's already thrown 100 innings, and I'm going to guess the Indians aren't going to let him go beyond 120 innings (he threw 87.2 innings last year).
So with Salazar being 3-4 starts away from being shut down, why not use him in the biggest series of the season to date? In his last start, Salazar completely dominated AAA hitters, pitching five perfect innings and striking out 8 in the process, all on 52 pitches. Had he not been on a pitch count/innings count, he would have had a good chance of tossing a no-hitter.
The Tigers haven't seen Salazar before, there's limited major-league video of him pitching, and Jimenez has been knocked around by the Tigers this season. I think it comes down to this: why waste your secret weapon against AAA hitters when you can use him to help you win a division?
From a practical standpoint, someone in the bullpen will have to be optioned out to make room for Salazar. It could be Scrabble or it could be Bryan Shaw, both of whom have options remaining. There's no shortage of good relievers (C.C. Lee, Preston Guilmet, even Nick Hagadone) who could come up on Thursday after Salazar is sent back down, so I don't think the Indians really hurt their bullpen by doing this. It also pushes everyone else in the rotation back a day, which should help guys like Scott Kazmir, who only threw 64 innings last season (and all of those innings came in Independent ball).
I guess I don't see a downside here.