Danny Salazar, one of the best pitching prospects in the Cleveland Indians system, will make his major league debut on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Tribe announced the somewhat-expected decision on Tuesday afternoon, with a final rotation spot left open with the most recent demotion of Carlos Carrasco. It will be a tough first test for the 23-year-old Salazar, as he’ll face off against a rescheduled foe: reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
Salazar is 5-5 with a 3.08 ERA in 17 starts this season between the Double-A Akron Aeros and Triple-A Columbus Clippers. He has an organization-leading 100 strikeouts against only 23 walks in his 76.0 innings pitched. He received his first-ever promotion to Columbus in early May. He’s also the reigning Indians minor league player of the week.
Cleveland signed Salazar as a 16-year-old prospect out of the Dominican Republic in July 2006. He had some mild success working his way up through the organization, but it was a huge surprise in the winter of 2011 when the team protected him on its 40-man roster. That was a necessary move if they wanted to prevent another team from picking him in the Rule 5 Draft.
Their patience and confidence paid off, as the prospect responded with a 2.36 ERA in 87.2 combined innings last season while continuing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He struck out 76 batters against 27 walks between the High-A Carolina Mudcats and the Aeros. ESPN.com’s Keith Law him as the organization’s No. 4 prospect entering 2013.
Now, he’s been the highest riser of any prospect in the Indians system thus far this season. He was sidelined for about 10 days in mid-May and it appears his pitch count has been limited, as he hasn’t surpassed 78 pitches in his last four outings for Columbus. His presence still could provide a much-needed boost to a struggling Cleveland pitching staff.
[Related: How good of a starting prospect is Danny Salazar?]