Top Prospects: Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians

CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar is going to start his first Major League game on Thursday afternoon against Toronto.

Tribe manager Terry Francona announced Salazar as the starter before the Indians opened a three-game set against the visiting Blue Jays on Tuesday. Salazar, Cleveland's eighth-best prospect according to MLB.com, is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA across 10 starts for Triple-A Columbus this season. In 42 1/3 innings, the right-hander has 49 strikeouts against 13 walks.

"He's getting a lot of strikeouts," Francona said. "He's got good velocity. He's got all the tools. He's only probably up to 85-90 pitches. We have to be cognizant of that, especially pitching at a level where you know he's going to be amped up. But his future is really bright."

Salazar, 23, also started seven games for Double-A Akron this year. In those outings, he went 2-3 and compiled a 2.67 ERA. He racked up 51 strikeouts while issuing 10 walks over 33 2/3 innings.

The Indians also announced on Tuesday that Salazar was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for July 1-7, during which he went 2-0 while keeping his opponents to three hits and no runs over 10 total innings.

Francona said that Salazar will probably be sent back down after starting on Thursday. When that happens, he'll return to the same squad as Carlos Carrasco, who would have been the starter on Thursday, but was designated for assignment and optioned to the Clippers after another disappointing outing. In six starts with the Indians, Carrasco has an 0-4 record and a 9.10 ERA.

When Cleveland decided to have Carrasco take his next turn in the Minors, Salazar got his shot.

"When the coordinators had come through a couple weeks ago, that was one of the topics -- was he ready to handle one of these spot starts, and it was a unanimous 'yes,'" Francona said. "So, we're kind of excited."

Chisenhall posting impressive numbers since callup

DET@CLE: Chisenhall rips single to right to score two

CLEVELAND -- Lonnie Chisenhall dug into the box on Monday with two outs on the scoreboard and two teammates on base. It was the second inning, and the Indians trailed Detroit by one run. About 60 feet away stood Max Scherzer, the owner of a perfect 13-0 record.

Chisenhall took a changeup for a ball before falling into a 1-2 count after a couple of heaters from Scherzer. Then came four more fastballs, three of which clocked in at 99-mph. Chisenhall fouled the next three off and took the fourth for a ball, as Mike Aviles and Michael Brantley moved up by stealing second and third. At that point, Scherzer stepped off the mound to speak to an umpire, and a 20-minute rain delay commenced.

When play resumed, Scherzer followed his six straight four-seamers with an 89-mph changeup, which Chisenhall smoked into right field. In came Brantley and Aviles, and the Tribe grabbed a 2-1 lead.

"That was a hard at-bat to go up there after sitting for that long," said Tribe manager Terry Francona, who's been generally pleased with how Chisenhall has hit since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on June 18.

"It was kind of a weird at-bat," Chisenhall said. "It started raining right in the middle of it. He kept challenging me before the rain delay. Fastballs, fastballs. They called it, and I wasn't very happy. Kind of in the middle of the at-bat, we're both battling.

"I mean, right after the rain delay, first-pitch changeup, and I got the barrel on it, got a single to right. It was awesome. We really needed it at that point. We went down 1-0 in the top there, so it was nice to get something going and get the wheels going."

In 17 games since his callup, Chisenhall, 24, owns a .293/.339/.500 slash line with six doubles, two homers, nine RBIs, four walks and 11 strikeouts. The numbers signify a pretty dramatic turnaround for a player who started the season as the Tribe's Opening Day third baseman before his demotion on May 13.

At that point, Chisenhall was hitting .213 with four doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs, three walks and 11 strikeouts over 26 games.

"I feel good right now," Chisenhall said. "Baseball's a tough sport. It comes and goes as it pleases sometimes. But right now, I feel good in the box. I feel confident."

That's good news for the Indians and their manager, who feels Chisenhall could be a major building block in the organization's future.

"For the most part, when he's gotten pitches to hit, he's hit them, and he's laying off pitches out of the zone much better," Francona said. "If he gets a pitch to hit, he's going to have some success. He's got quick hands, and he's a pretty strong kid. When he swings at balls, again, middle of the plate, he's going to do some damage. And for the most part, he's done a pretty good job with that."

Chisenhall, who was selected by the Indians in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut in 2011. In 152 career games, he's put together a .255 average to go along with 58 RBIs and 17 homers.

"When I'm going good, I'm not going out of the zone too much," Chisenhall said. "I put together some good at-bats. I think two or three nights ago, I saw close to 30 pitches. When I'm going well, I'm fouling off pitches that are tough to hit and hitting my pitch. I'm starting to feel good as of late."

Tribe exploring options for rotation reinforcement

CLE@CWS: Francona on Masterson's exceptional start

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have already been linked to the Cubs' Matt Garza. Now, they're reportedly interested in Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.

At the moment, those two pitchers are Cleveland's "main and only pitchers of interest," according to a CBSSports.com story by Jon Heyman. The Tribe is seeking a pitcher to "pair with ace Justin Masterson," according to a source in the report. The Indians want a starter with high-end stuff, but they might be content to leave their rotation untouched if they can't reach a deal for a top-of-the-rotation player.

"We like the group of guys we have and believe in their potential," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian in an e-mail. "But if there's an opportunity to improve our roster or our depth, we'll pursue it."

This season, opposing clubs have devalued Gallardo, whose performance in 2013 has not reflected past success. Through 19 starts, the Brewers' right-hander has assembled a 7-8 record and a 4.85 ERA while averaging 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. In each of the past four seasons, Gallardo kept his ERA under 4.00 and struck out at least nine hitters per nine innings, on average.

Gallardo, 27, has another year on his contract, plus an option after that.

What's true of Gallardo does not apply to Garza, who will be a free agent but remains open to signing on for more time in Chicago after this season ends. Over his last five outings, the 29-year-old righty has gone 4-0 and put together an impressive 0.97 ERA. Across that stretch, Garza has issued eight walks and posted 34 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .180 batting average.

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Indians were one of five teams to scout Garza's start on Monday, when he held the White Sox to five hits and two runs (one earned) over seven innings. In 10 starts this year, Garza is 5-1 and owns a 3.22 ERA.

Entering the 2013 campaign, Cleveland's starting rotation was considered the club's primary weakness. The starters have performed better than expected, though lately manager Terry Francona has gone to his bullpen earlier in games than he'd probably like. Entering Tuesday's tilt, Tribe starters are 30-34 with a 4.58 ERA. They've thrown 506 2/3 innings (12th in the American League) and racked up 453 strikeouts (fifth in the AL).

Even if the Indians don't make a deal for a starter, they'll receive second-half reinforcement in the form of Zach McAllister, who hasn't pitched since June 2 because of a right middle finger sprain.

Smoke signals

• The All-Star break is within sight, and Francona said the Indians "will use it to our advantage" to tinker with the rotation for the second half. Along with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Francona is meeting with his pitchers to figure out how best to assemble his starting staff. The manager did mention that he would prefer to have All-Star Justin Masterson make the first start of the second half in Minnesota.

"Even if he pitches [in the All-Star Game], that would give him three days. That would be about perfect," Francona said. "And then we'll work from there."

• While the Indians decided to make Salazar their starter on Thursday, Francona admitted that prospect Trevor Bauer was considered as well. Bauer, 22, has made four starts for Cleveland this season, going 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA.

"I think at this point, this time, we thought it'd be in his best interest to kind of stay where he is pitching," Francona said. "He's trying to fight through the mechanical things and everything. His last outing with us was a pretty rocky one. So, you balance development, winning at the big league level, all those things, and decide to let him stay where he is."

• Injured catcher Lou Marson, who last appeared in a baseball game on June 7 in Triple-A Columbus, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Sunday, the same day Cleveland designated Carrasco. Marson is on the DL because of right shoulder inflammation.

"He's trying to ramp up on his throwing program. He's able to hit," Francona said. "He's running into some road blocks from time to time, so it hasn't gone as quickly as I think we've hoped, but that's where he's at now."

Marson's shoulder has limited his playing time with the Indians to three games in April. Cleveland acquired him in a Deadline deal with Philadelphia four years ago.

Quote to note

"I've been really impressed with his game clock, like the speed of the game. He sees everything on the field very well. And again, when you play against him, you knew he was a really good player. But then when you're with him every day, you see how the game's not very fast for him."
-- Francona, on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera