Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rising stars Salazar, Walker meet in Cleveland

Danny Salazar and Taijuan Walker, two of the American League's harder-throwing young right-handers, square off Wednesday at Progressive Field in the middle game of a three-game set between the Indians and Mariners.
Salazar, 26, enjoyed a breakout 2015 when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts and 53 walks in 185 innings, and he's been even better his first two starts this season with a 2-0 record and a 0.79 ERA.
Walker, 23, throws similar mid-90s heat and also is coming off his first full year as a Major League starter. Walker overcame a slow start in 2015 to post an 11-8 record and a 4.56 ERA with 157 strikeouts and 40 walks in 169 2/3 innings.
Walker has yet to earn a decision in two starts this year, but he has posted a 2.25 ERA. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he possesses the physical tools to be regarded as a potential rising star like Salazar, but manager Scott Servais says these things take time.
"Everybody sees the talent Taijuan brings, the athleticism, the upside," Servais said. "You can dream real big. In the big leagues, it's about performance."
Walker is making his third career start against the Indians, having gone 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in a pair of outings against them last year. Walker threw eight shutout innings with two hits, no walks and eight strikeouts in a 2-1 win in Seattle in May, then allowed one run on eight hits in six innings in a 9-3 victory at Progressive Field in June.
Salazar took a no-decision in his only previous start against the Mariners, a 6-3 win for the Indians last May at Safeco Field when he gave up three runs on four hits in 5 1/3 frames.
Things to watch in this game
• Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist injury, is expected to be activated on Wednesday and could be in the lineup for the first time this season. The Indians must make a corresponding move to open a spot on the 25-man roster.
• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who played the first four seasons of his Major League career with Cleveland from 2005-08, likely will be limited to pinch-hitting duties in this series for Seattle, as he's in a platoon situation in right field and the Tribe has all right-handed starters. But Gutierrez has performed extremely well in part-time duties for the past two seasons -- batting .283 with a .932 OPS and 15 home runs in 191 at-bats -- since spending a year out of baseball dealing with his ankylosing spondylitis condition.
• Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano rank among the top five in batting average among all hitters who've had at least 100 plate appearances against Indians pitching since 2010. Seager came into the series first on that list with a .380 average (46-for-121), while Cano was fifth at .354 (56-for-158).

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