CLEVELAND -- The Indians made a gutsy decision to bring highly-touted rookie Danny Salazar up from Triple-A Columbus to start against the Tigers on Wednesday.
Prior to Monday's series opener with Detroit, Indians manager Terry Francona was asked if the move to call up Salazar was a sign that there is a sense of urgency surrounding the four-game set against the American League-leading Tigers.
"Maybe a little bit," Francona said. "He has been pitching very well, so competitively it should help us."
On Sunday in Miami, the Indians announced the move, which will require a subsequent transaction on either Tuesday or Wednesday to add Salazar to the active roster. Salazar will slide into the rotation slot formerly held by Ubaldo Jimenez, who is now scheduled to start on Friday against the Angels. Jimenez has posted a 6.92 ERA against Detroit this season.
Salazar, 23, made a spot start for the Indians on July 11 and held the Blue Jays to one run on two hits, ending with seven strikeouts and one walk. On Friday, Salazar logged five no-hit innings against Triple-A Buffalo, but he was pulled from the game after 52 pitches.
Salazar has gone 6-5 with a 2.71 ERA this season, holding batters to a .211 average over 93 innings between Columbus and Double-A Akron. He has piled up 129 strikeouts, turning in a rate of 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Along the way, the Indians have closely monitored Salazar's innings, considering he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2010.
"We thought it was a good time," Francona said. "We're trying to balance Danny's innings, competitiveness, things like that, and we wanted to get to a point where we didn't have to bring Danny [up] and mess his innings up. Our player development staff has done such a good job, where now we can bring him up, he doesn't have to pitch three or four innings and we don't have to go to the bullpen."
Bullpen makes strides as team rides hot streak
CLEVELAND -- The trials and tribulations of the bullpen has been an ongoing storyline for the Indians this season. Things have been a lot quieter on that front of late for the Tribe, and that has been a great development for the club.
Over the past few weeks, Cleveland has enjoyed noticeable improvement from its relief corps, which has benefited from a handful of factors. The starting rotation has been pitching deeper into games, lefty Rich Hill has made positive strides lately and closer Chris Perez has been locking down the ninth inning.
"It all starts with the guy pitching the first inning," Indians reliever Cody Allen said. "If he can get us deep into a game, that's great. They've been doing that. Our starting pitching has been outstanding. We've stacked a couple good innings together, a couple good games together and it's kind of been rolling."
The Indians entered Monday's meeting with the Tigers having won 15 of their past 20 games. During that stretch, which dates back to July 11, Cleveland's rotation has posted a 2.23 ERA with an average of more than six innings per start. The bullpen has fallen in line accordingly, posting a 2.72 ERA with a .232 opponents' batting average over that span.
From July 3-10, when the Indians went 2-6 as a team, the bullpen posted a 6.35 ERA. Cleveland also had a 15-5 run from June 11-July 2, during which the bullpen put up a 2.92 ERA. Prior to that stretch, the Tribe endured a 4-16 spell from May 21-June 10, in which the 'pen posted a 7.18 ERA.
"The deeper the starters get, the less stress on a bullpen," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The other thing is, Rich Hill has been really good lately. When you have that situational lefty, a lot of times you bring him in when the game's on the line.
"Not only has he been getting those guys out, but because he's been successful, Cody and [Bryan] Shaw have been facing fewer of the big lefties than they had before. So I think it goes hand in hand."
Helping matters has been the fact that Perez has posted a 0.95 ERA with 11 saves in 11 chances across 18 appearances since rejoining the bullpen on June 28, following a stay on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury.
"We've been getting a little rhythm out there and getting some confidence," Allen said. "Having C.P. back pitching as well as he has been has really allowed us to have some confidence in just getting the ball to him."
Quote to note
"I hope our guys enjoy the heck out of these four days. If you don't have a heartbeat now, if your pulse isn't going now, you're probably semi-comatose. This is fun."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on the current series against the Tigers
• A year ago, the Indians endured the worst single calendar month in franchise history, going 5-24 in August. Entering Monday, Cleveland had three wins in four games this month, sat a season-high 13 games over .500 and was only three games out of first place in the American League Central.
"This is why these guys show up in Spring Training and work hard," Francona said. "We're in the middle of August right now and every game is so meaningful. That's a lot of fun."
• Entering Monday, the Indians had two players ranked in the top six (minimum 25 at-bats) in the AL in batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs. The list includes Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, .463 (41 at-bats); Cleveland's Ryan Raburn, .462 (26); Kansas City's David Lough, .406 (32); Texas' Nelson Cruz, .400 (45); Kansas City's Billy Butler, .385 (39); and Cleveland's Michael Brantley, .383 (47).
• This date in Indians history: On Aug. 5, 2001, the Indians completed an improbable comeback against the Mariners, battling back from a 14-2 deficit in the fifth inning to pull off a dramatic 15-14 victory in 11 innings. Jolbert Cabrera's broken-bat single in the 11th inning scored Kenny Lofton for the game-winning run.