Posted on September 13, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Danny Salazar

Image via Cleveland.com

The Cleveland Indians received a diagnosis for pitcher Danny Salazar on Monday, and the news wasn’t all that good. Salazar was forced to leave his start last Friday due to tightness in his forearm, and the Indians knew he would miss at least one start. But following an MRI on Monday, Salazar was diagnosed with a mild strain to his flexor musculature, an injury that will keep him out an estimated three to four weeks and could possibly mean the end of his 2016 season.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona recognizes that the news on Salazar could have been a lot worse, especially considering all of the arm and elbow trouble he’s had over the last few months. “When it’s all said and done, getting the news that we did is probably pretty damn good,” Francona said. “I mean it’s musculature as opposed to something with a ligament.”

On Tuesday, Salazar will receive a  platelet-rich plasma injection. He will then be shutdown for 10 days before being re-evlautated. Doctors have put a three-to-four-week timeline on Salazar’s return, making a return to action before the end of the regular season impossible.

The question now becomes whether Salazar may be able to come back in time to contribute to Cleveland’s postseason run. But even with a six-game lead over the Detroit Tigers, Francona isn’t ready to think about how Salazar may factor into the team’s postseason plans. “There’s no reason to speculate,” he said. “The one thing we want to do is get him healthy, make sure he knows he’s healthy — because that’s important — and then if it fits somewhere, good. But the biggest thing is to get him healthy.”

Theoretically, the Indians should have no trouble closing out the AL Central without Salazar in the starting rotation. Of course, Cleveland still has seven games with the Tigers, which could allow Detroit to gain ground in a hurray if the Indians can’t win at least three or four of those games. However, barring a sudden collapse, Cleveland should feel good about reaching the postseason. But what the team’s rotation may look like in the playoffs if Salazar isn’t available is another issue.

Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are likely penciled in as the starters for games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, but a healthy Salazar would have likely been in line for game 3, forcing the Indians to reshuffle their rotation. Trevor Bauer is likely to get bumped up to game 3, although he has put up modest numbers during the second half of the season, a stark drop in production from the first half. With Salazar possibly out and Bauer struggling, Cleveland’s rotation depth is not as impressive as it was earlier in the season.

The Indians may also have to plug Mike Clevinger or Josh Tomlin into the postseason rotation, unless they feel comfortable pitching Kluber and Carrasco on short rest. Clevinger has been far more effective as a reliever than a starter this year, while Tomlin was recently moved to the bullpen after profound struggles as a starter in August. Tomlin is scheduled to rejoin the rotation in Salazar’s place on Wednesday.

With Salazar definitely out for the rest of the regular season and doubtful for the postseason, the Indians are now left scrambling to figure out their postseason rotation. Not long ago, Cleveland’s rotation looked akin to the one that carried to the New York Mets to the World Series last year. However, with Salazar’s injury and struggles on the back end, the depth behind Kluber and Carrasco may not be conducive to the Indians making a deep postseason run in 2016.

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