CLEVELAND — Rookie pitcher Danny Salazar was in uniform and on the bench Wednesday when the Indians hosted Toronto at Progressive Field.
Today at 12:05 p.m., the 23-year-old right-hander will be on the field, making his Major League Baseball debut against the Blue Jays.
“I’m not going to try to take everything in while I’m out there,” Salazar said. “I’m just going to do my job and try not to think about what’s happening. But it’s going to be exciting.”
Salazar, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2006, is ranked as the seventh-best prospect in Cleveland’s organization by Baseball America.
A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, he is 5-5 with a 3.08 ERA in 17 starts this season, split between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
“When I got called up from Double-A to Triple-A (on May 12), I was excited because I thought to myself, ‘Hey, you’re getting there,” said Salazar, who is wearing No. 31. “When the Indians told me they were bringing me up here, it was a shock. I didn’t know what to say. It means so much to me.”
Salazar said he idolized future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez as a youth, but now attempts to emulate Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
Specifically, the 6-foot, 190-pounder said he admires Verlander’s ability to remain calm, regardless of the situation, which is a quality he will need this afternoon.
“We’re going to try and keep things as normal as possible for Salazar, which is why we brought him up a day early, but this is not normal, truthfully,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “He probably won’t sleep a wink tonight, but that’s to be expected and why we wanted him to pitch in a day game.
“You only get one first game in the big leagues, but this isn’t going to define his entire career. This is just another step — and a big one — for him.”
Salazar underwent reconstructive right elbow surgery in 2010, forcing him to spend the majority of 2011 rehabilitating the injury. He pitched at Akron and Single-A Carolina last season, posting a 5-2 record and 2.36 ERA in 22 starts.
“I spent last offseason working on my body, so physically I know I’ll be ready,” Salazar said. “The biggest thing (today) is mentally, making my first start in the big leagues. But I know how to attack hitters. I just have to keep doing it and not worry about who is in the box.”
Return of Z-Mac
Indians starting pitcher Zach McAllister (strained right middle finger) will make his first rehabilitation start Saturday for Double-A Akron against Altoona, but won’t be permitted to throw any curveballs.
“Don’t tell Toledo or whoever they’re playing that night,” Francona quipped. “Everything has gone great with Zach, but we just want to keep everything on track in his recovery. He could throw four innings or so if things go right.”
McAllister, who is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts, has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 8. He will make a second minor league appearance next week before being activated.
The Blue Jays originally listed left-hander Mark Buehrle as their starter today, but moved the veteran back to Friday, when they visit Baltimore.
Instead, reigning National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey will take the mound for Toronto. The knuckleballer is 8-9 with a 4.77 ERA, but opposing batters are only hitting .245 against him.
“You’ve heard the old saying about knuckleballs: ‘If it’s high, let it fly, but if it’s low, let it go,’” Francona said. “The thing that makes Dickey so tricky, though, is he throws the ball way harder than most other knuckleballers.”
Both teams took batting practice indoors for the second day in a row. The tarp wasn’t removed from the infield until 45 minutes before the first pitch.
** The Indians and Blue Jays entered the game tied at 191-191-2 in their all-time series, but the Tribe held a 49-32 edge at Progressive Field.
** Cleveland’s home game Saturday against Kansas City will not be televised locally.
Its 7:05 p.m. start falls within Fox’s exclusive window for national television broadcasts.
** The Indians are 39-1 when holding the lead after eight innings, but 2-40 when trailing entering the ninth.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.