GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians are handling young right-hander Danny Salazar with, appropriately enough, kid gloves.
Salazar, 24, likely won’t make his exhibition debut until sometime next week. He was scheduled to throw to hitters Saturday at a practice field at the team’s complex in Goodyear, with manager Terry Francona saying the right-handed phenom would do the same two or three more times before taking the mound in a game situation.
It’s no secret the Indians are following this path to protect Salazar, who tossed a career-high 145 innings last season — three years removed from reconstructive elbow surgery.
“Being a week later, it’s not the end of the world and it sets up the whole year,” Francona said of Salazar’s exhibition debut delay. “We want him to pitch with the tank full. That’s the best way I can put it.
“I think we have a responsibility when guys show up (to camp) to assess where they’re at. There’s different ways to get to the season for everybody.”
There were many highlights for Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA in 10 starts) in 2013, including starting as a rookie in the American League wild-card loss to Tampa Bay. He won his big league debut against Toronto on July 11, becoming just the third Cleveland pitcher to do so — Luis Tiant and Herb Score — while pitching at least six innings and striking out no fewer than seven batters.
Barring injury, his spot in the Indians’ rotation is secure, with the Indians extremely optimistic of his potential.
The Indians’ scheduled exhibition game against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., was canceled by rain.
Francona was optimistic the two Central Division rivals would play, but rain began to fall before his team boarded the bus for the road trip.
The game will not be made up.
It was the first time it has rained in Central Arizona since Dec. 20, 2013.
Nyjer Morgan has made an early impression at camp in his bid to win a job with the Indians off the bench. The outspoken outfielder has had issues on and off the field in the past, but according to Francona, they haven’t been present since he reported to Goodyear.
“You can tell he’s kind of on a mission here,” said Francona of the five-year veteran, who spent last season playing in Japan. “He’s been a great kid. I don’t care what he did before. That would be totally unfair to him, but he’s been exemplary every day. He shows up, he’s enthusiastic. This kid is motivated.
“That doesn’t mean he’s going to make the club, but that doesn’t mean our first initial thoughts aren’t positive with him. I think he’s been outstanding. He’s fun to have around.”
The versatile Morgan, 33, owns a number of positive characteristics off the bench, but the career .280 hitter batted just .239 in his last big league season in 2012.
Francona was asked to weigh in on the “Unfinished Business” T-shirts that first baseman Nick Swisher had made and was passing out to players in the clubhouse Friday.
The only thing he didn’t like about them was that he didn’t get one for himself.
“Whether it’s a T-shirt or doing a dance, when you’re doing things together and having fun with it, I’m good with all that stuff,” he said. “As long as these guys like each other and want to build some unity, whatever. As long as they’re not breaking any laws, I’m OK.”
Do the Indians have unfinished business after being bounced early in the postseason by the Rays?
“I think you walk a fine line,” Francona said. “You want to learn from everything you’ve done in the past. At the same time, we don’t want to be that team that got hot the last two weeks, was kind of a nice story and didn’t do much after that.
“I think the one thing it will help us with this year is that when we do struggle, we know we’re good enough to come back and win, whereas last year it took us a while to get there, cause when they got punched in the stomach sometimes it would ruin the season, and last year it didn’t.”
Swisher will make his exhibition debut today. … Shaun Marcum, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, is still at least a week away from making his exhibition debut. … Today, 3:05 p.m., vs. Seattle at Goodyear Ballpark. Masterson vs. Wolf.