The Cleveland Indians swept the Red Sox, winning their first postseason series in nine years, and will take on the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League pennant, in a series that gets underway Friday night at Progressive Field. There were a number of keys to the series for the Tribe, including big home runs in all three games, the somewhat expected excellence of Corey Kluber, and the somewhat less expected excellence of Josh Tomlin. What many will remember most about the series though, might be manager Terry Francona leaning on his bullpen, getting a lot of innings out of his best relievers.
Francona could be on the verge of having another dominant arm at his disposal in the mid to late innings, because Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that All-Star Danny Salazar threw a bullpen session yesterday, will likely throw a live BP session, and could be ready to rejoin the team for the ALCS. Salazar also threw a bullpen session last Friday, so yesterday's session means there weren't any setbacks.
Salazar has been out for the last month with a right forearm strain. He pitched like a Cy Young contender during the first half of the season, posting a 2.22 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 93.1 innings from April through June, but from July through early September, when the injury took him off the field, his ERA was 7.36 in 44.0 innings.
Salazar won't have enough time to get stretched back out to starting, no matter how good he's feeling, but if he doesn't report any problems, and gets through the live BP session, he'll likely be added to the ALCS roster, and his 95 MPH fastball and very effective changeup could make him a great bullpen option. Francona used his 'pen for 10.1 innings in the ALDS, an average of more than ten outs per game. He used only four relievers for all of those innings, but in a series that goes longer than three games, that's be almost impossible unless his starters are going 7+ innings every game, which is highly unlikely.
If Salazar really is feeling better, he could come into a couple games knowing he only has to pitch an inning or so, rather than trying to conserve himself for a longer outing. The Indians will likely announce their ALCS roster either late on Thursday, or early on Friday, and Salazar's presence or absence on that roster is the main thing to watch for.