GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — The Cleveland Indians are extremely excited about having Danny Salazar for a full season, and that is why they are taking their time with the young pitcher this spring.
"His stuff is electric. The more he pitches for us, the better we are," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We all know that. Saying that, there's a way to get there and by just turning him loose in February, I don't think we felt like that was the best way to get there."
Last season, the 24-year-old right-hander pitched a career-high 145 innings between Double-A, Triple-A and Cleveland, making his big league debut in July. In 10 starts with Cleveland he went 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA and was chosen to the start the AL wild-card game against Tampa Bay, where he gave up three runs in four innings of a 4-0 loss.
Salazar, who had elbow-reconstruction surgery in 2010, has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game this spring; he'll throw one inning in an intrasquad game Friday. Still, he doesn't mind the schedule.
"They told me that early because they want to be patient with me now," Salazar said. "So in the season I can throw maybe 180 innings or maybe 200 innings."
Francona knows how important Salazar is to Cleveland's success this season — and beyond — so he's not concerned with taking it slow now.
That's not to say it's always been easy maintaining that slow transition.
"I told him every time (last season), I wish I didn't have to take you out,'" Francona said.
Just 52 innings into his big league career, there is still plenty left for Salazar to take in, both on and off the field.
"I'm still learning little things from everything here and from other players," Salazar said. "I always like watching how they do things here during the game and during the practice."
While he continues to get acclimated to everyday life in the major leagues by learning from his teammates, Salazar also knows he has to adapt his own approach to avoid any sign of a sophomore slump.
"You have to mix your fastball, throwing hard and throwing soft," Salazar said. "(I need to) just be consistent, throwing my pitches down in the zone and elevating whenever I want. Also pitching my slider. I've been working on it and it's working really good right now."
If the Indians are going to make another run at the playoffs — "Unfinished Business" is the credo in the clubhouse — Salazar will be a key.
With an off day in the first week of April, the Indians also have plenty of flexibility as to when Salazar can make his first start.
"Opening day is not the finishing line with off days and things built-in," Francona said. "I guess I don't get too caught up in it because we care so much about getting him ready for his career that a week in April is not the end of the world."
But once Danny Salazar's regular season starts, there won't be an innings limit and there won't be any restrictions.