CLEVELAND — Perhaps the most logical — and simplest — answer for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation remains trapped in Arizona, sometimes singing karaoke tunes to try to make the time pass when he’s not on a mound in the sweltering heat.
Danny Salazar has primarily remained at the club’s facility in Goodyear, Ariz., since spring training, throwing on back fields in 100-degree temperatures day after day, hoping the pain in his shoulder will subside. He was diagnosed with right shoulder impingement tendinitis, and the progress has been slow. And there isn’t much to do out there when the vast majority of your teammates are all in Cleveland, and the your injured shoulder will only allow you to do so much.
Salazar also received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last month.
The hope was that it would alleviate the condition enough to allow Salazar to begin letting it go again. There was hope, but it didn’t last.
“I was feeling better for the first few days after,” Salazar said last week while in Cleveland. “I got 10 days of rest, not throwing, just icing and stretching. After that, for the first few days, I was playing catch and I was feeling good. Then when I went to throw from 120 feet, it started bothering me.”
Salazar received a cortisone injection this week after meeting with Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Schickendantz, Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Minneapolis. Salazar will be shut down for five to seven days, according to MLB.com.
That’s been the brutal part of this process for Salazar. There have been stretches during which he has felt good, but then the shoulder starts bothering him again.
“It’s frustrating,” Salazar said. “I’ve been playing catch, feeling good one week. Then this week, it’s like the same thing (comes) back. It’s just been like that all the time. So I came here for like a week or so, see the doctor and see what the next step is.”
Thus far, it has been a fight, but there isn’t an end in sight. The team never really put a timetable on Salazar’s return, and the situation hasn’t gotten any clearer.
“That’s been more frustrating for me, because I haven’t been able to do what I want to do, which is throw the way I want to throw,” he said. “There’s no need for surgery or something like that. It’s just something that is there that has to go away.”
It’s been a mental grind as much as a physical one. For several months, Salazar has had to go into each day hoping for an improvement from the previous day, waiting for the time he can rejoin the major league club. He’s endured an extended search for answers, as well as the ups and downs of one positive day followed by pain the next.
In search of normalcy, or at least a bit of enjoyment through a long process, karaoke has been Salazar’s answer. He has a karaoke machine, and he and Michael Martinez — who ruptured his Achilles tendon before the season — have broken up the monotony of their rehab by singing into the night. Sometimes, the results of these nights have made their way onto Instagram.
“It’s actually pretty good, singing salsa,” Salazar said of Martinez’s abilities. “ … I have the karaoke thing in my house, so he comes there and I think he feels the same thing. He’s like, ‘Damn, I want to one day wake up and just walk like normal and I can’t.’ That’s something we’ve been doing, and I think he keeps my mind away from what’s happening, even though after that, we come back to rehab.”
The Indians have been searching for an answer for the No. 5 spot in their rotation since Josh Tomlin struggled to start the season and was sent to the bullpen. Adam Plutko is an option but hasn’t yet established himself.
Salazar, a former All-Star, has the better track record and an electric arm, with a career 3.82 ERA and a 10.5 strikeout rate per nine innings. On paper, he has the highest ceiling. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy and was virtually a nonfactor during the Indians’ postseason runs the last two years.
The team is still trying to wait, because it has seen what Salazar can do when he’s at his best.
“I think everybody would like it to happen more quick, for him to get back healthy and pitching the way he’s capable of,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said in May. “It just hasn’t happened yet. But he could be a big part of our team in the second half.”