CLEVELAND — While official 25-man World Series rosters haven’t been announced yet, Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar — who hasn’t pitched in the playoffs due to a mild strain of the flexor muscle in his right arm — said Monday he was informed he’ll be a part of the Indians’ efforts to win their first World Series since 1948.
Unless, of course, he has an odd accident (like the infamous drone-related one Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer suffered) before Tuesday morning.
“Nothing's official, so if we have another drone incident or anything with model airplanes or anything, we reserve the right until we have to turn it in,” Francona cracked.
So barring another bizarre misfortune befitting of Mr. Burns' softball team of ringers from “The Simpsons,” Salazar gives Cleveland “another really good arm that's kind of a wild card that we think could help us,” Francona said.
The Indians and Salazar aren’t sure how they’ll use the 2016 All Star, but however they do, it’ll likely be in Game 4 in Chicago. Salazar could be in line for an abbreviated start or to relieve rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who threw 4 1/3 innings in the Indians’ American League Championship Series clinching win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Oct. 19.
Salazar, who hasn’t started a game since Sept. 9, said he threw 45 pitches over three innings in a simulated game Sunday and said he’s “ready for everything” in the World Series. He could throw more than 45 pitches if he is called upon as a starter in Game 4 but likely will be on a strict pitch count. His only other limitation is that he hasn’t thrown his curveball while rehabbing yet, though that’s a pitch he only threw 5.1 percent of the time in 2016.
Salazar’s largest weakness in the regular season was an off-and-on lack of control. He issued three or more walks in 11 of his 25 starts. Right-handers had considerably more success against him — a .264/.351/.404 slash line — which could be a positive if Merritt, a left-hander, starts and Salazar is in line to relieve him.
But nonetheless, having to face Salazar adds another wrinkle to the Cubs’ first World Series berth in 71 years, whether or not he pitches out of the bullpen. The 26-year-old led Indians starters with a 27.6-percent strikeout rate, largely using his power changeup to get swings and misses while mixing plenty of mid-90s fastballs and mixing in a few breaking balls here and there.
“He's got unbelievable stuff,” Indians Game 1 starter Corey Kluber said. “That would be definitely an extra weapon to have on our pitching staff.”
It's been a tough season for Michigan State, a shockingly uncharacteristic campaign for Mark Dantonio's program that has seen five losses, all coming in the last five contests.
The Spartans were projected during the preseason to once again compete for a conference and national championship after winning the Big Ten title last season and reaching the College Football Playoff, but neither of those things will happen this time around, with Michigan State experiencing its worst season under Dantonio since 2009. In all likelihood, it will be the worst season, record-wise, during his tenure.
But there's at least one man who doesn't think anyone should lose sight of what Dantonio's done in East Lansing and what has made this season such an aberration: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan and Michigan State get together Saturday in the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a game that was supposed to be one of the key contests shaping this season's Playoff picture. Instead, the Wolverines enter as heavy favorites, undefeated through seven games while their in-state rivals sit at 2-5.
But Harbuagh praised Dantonio on Monday, telling reporters that what Dantonio has done in turning Michigan State into a perennial contender deserves recognition in the annals of college football history.
"He's done a great job," Harbaugh said. "One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game. It's been at the highest level."
Certainly Harbaugh is right. Dantonio took over a program that between 1991 and 2006 had just one double-digit-win season, featured only four campaigns with seven or more wins and had eight seasons of five or fewer wins.
In his 10 seasons, Dantonio has turned in five double-digit-win seasons, all coming in the past seven years and featuring two wins in the Big Ten Championship Game, a win in the Rose Bowl, a win in the Cotton Bowl and a trip to the Playoff.
In true college football coach fashion, Harbaugh went on to say that despite the lack of success for the Spartans this season and the fact that the Wolverines have pounded pretty much every opponent into the ground, his team needs to be ready for a "championship" kind of game.
And while that cliche gets a little tired sometimes, Harbaugh made a good point considering the outcome last season, when Michigan State beat Michigan on that legendary fumbled punt returned for a touchdown as time expired in Ann Arbor.
"It doesn't matter what's happened before this week for us or for an opponent. It never does," he said. "It matters what happens on the gameday. We know the task in front of us, we know the challenge, and it's up to us to make sure we get prepared to play that game so we can go out there confident and execute and have a chance at being successful.
"They're a very good football team. We know we'll be tough to beat, we know they'll be tough to beat. In the meantime, we'll get prepared for the game."