Cubs

Danny Salazar's return gives Cubs another All-Star pitcher to deal with in World Series

Danny Salazar's return gives Cubs another All-Star pitcher to deal with in World Series

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.

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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.”

Javier Báez leaves Sunday's game with right heel contusion, though he expects to play on Monday

Javier Báez leaves Sunday's game with right heel contusion, though he expects to play on Monday

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez exited Sunday's game against the Nationals in sixth inning with a right heel contusion.

Báez appeared to turn his right ankle charging a softly hit groundball by Nationals pitcher Jeremy Hellickson in the third inning. Cubs manager Joe Maddon went out to check on Báez, though the shortstop stayed in the game after a brief discussion.

Addison Russell, who was set to pinch hit for Báez in the sixth inning before Anthony Rizzo grounded into an inning-ending double play, took over at shortstop in the bottom half of the inning. Sunday was Russell's first appearance at shortstop since Sept. 19, 2018, as he recently returned from a 40-game suspension for violating MLB's domestic violence policy.

The move was likely precautionary, as the Cubs held a 6-1 lead when Báez exited the game and play again on Monday night. He expects to play on Monday against Jake Arrieta and the Phillies, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers.

The Nationals scored three times in the sixth inning, cutting the Cubs' lead to 6-4. Russell made a throwing error on his first attempt, though it was a deflected ball off of Hendricks' glove. While the Cubs obviously want Báez healthy and on the field, they managed to pull out a 6-5 win in his absence.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta face off at Wrigley Field

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta face off at Wrigley Field

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by NBC Sports Chicago Cubs producers Eric Strobel and Nate Poppen to break down Monday night's big matchup between former Cub Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish.

The trio discuss the history and dynamics behind the matchup (2:00), the statistical comparison between the two pitchers over the past two seasons and their potential going forward (4:00), the difference in mental makeup between Jake and Yu (11:00), and Jake's massively important place in Cubs history (17:30).

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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