July 31, 2014

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Indians: Young starter Danny Salazar sizzles in exhibition debut

Indians pitcher Danny Salazar signs autographs Sunday in Arizona. He made his exhibition debut Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Indians pitcher Danny Salazar signs autographs Sunday in Arizona. He made his exhibition debut Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It was debut day for phenom Danny Salazar.

The right-hander, who had been limited to bullpen sessions and a simulated game against Indians minor leaguers, made his first exhibition appearance Monday in an 8-3 loss to the Angels at Goodyear Ballpark.

Scheduled to work two innings or throw 30-35 pitches, Salazar came an out away from his prescribed innings count, allowing a run on two hits and two walks, while striking out two.

“It was a little weird, (the) first time facing batters from a different team,” said Salazar, who enjoyed a breakout end to last season, posting a 2-3 record and 3.12 ERA in 10 starts — his 11th outing coming in the American League wild-card playoff. “I feel great, my arm and my elbow. I was a little wild, but for being the first time out there, I felt really good. I feel very strong.”

It showed. According to manager Terry Francona, Salazar’s high-octane fastball was in midseason form.

“It was pretty high,” Francona said of Salazar’s velocity. “I think he was a little excited. He was throwing pretty hard. I think it was 97 (mph). That’s pretty good. That’s getting after it.

“I thought the ball came out of his hand really well. I thought he was free and easy, and (there was) a lot to build off of.”

Salazar said he threw all of his pitches — fastball, change-up and slider. He told reporters shortly after arriving at camp that he was excited about the progression of the slider, a pitch he used rarely last season.

“He should be excited about everything. I mean, his stuff is electric,” Francona said. “The more he pitches for us, the better we are. 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.”

The Indians have been handling Salazar with care since the top-level prospect underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2010. He tossed a career-high 145 innings at Triple-A Columbus, Double-A Akron and the big leagues (52 innings) last year, and Cleveland is bent on easing him into his first full season in the majors.

“It’s just to stay healthy and strong for the season,” Salazar said of his training camp program. “I know by the end of spring training I’m going to throw five innings like the other starters.”

He is scheduled to pitch three innings in his next outing, which should come this weekend.

Though there is a competition to be the fifth starter in the rotation, Salazar might wind up in that spot, thanks to the delayed approach this spring. The Indians could have him make his regular-season debut April 8 at home against the Padres.

Salazar, 24, just wants to be ready for the long haul.

“I just need to keep working hard, because I don’t want them to move me from (the rotation),” he said.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.