Danny Salazar was dominant in his brief taste of the big leagues last summer, playing a key role in the Indians' run to the American League Wild Card Game. The young righty impressed to the point that Cleveland trusted him with the start in that postseason contest.
That said, the Indians knew Salazar might experience some growing pains this season.
Come Sunday, Salazar will be on the hill at AT&T Park for his fifth start of the year as a full-time member of the rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander has had a rough go of it this month, but the Indians hope he can learn from the experience.
"He's still trying to get into that midseason form that will help," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "and doing it against really good lineups can be tough. And I think he's trying to find out who he is as a pitcher, too. I think that's probably fair to say. Who he can take a little off the fastball with, who he can't. He's still learning the league and things like that.
"You have to go through it to experience and to learn. That's part of it. If we're not willing to be patient, we're going to mess up. You don't ever use it as an excuse not to win, because we want to win, but you also want to help young guys, especially, get better."
On the year, Salazar is 0-3 with a 7.85 ERA. His counterpart Sunday, Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, has gone through similar struggles, producing an 0-1 record with a 7.71 ERA through four starts for San Francisco.
In his last outing, Salazar spun three no-hit innings on 50 pitches against the Royals on Tuesday, but then the right-hander fell apart in the fourth. In that frame, he toiled through 26 pitches and gave up four runs, and Francona pulled him from the game before the end of the fifth.
"The continued conversation with Danny is to drive the ball down," Francona said. "Everything seems to work off of that. That last outing, his first couple innings, he threw some unhittable breaking balls. And his changeup comes out of the same window, as opposed to maybe leaving some balls up arm side. He still has good velocity. He still gets some swing-and-miss, but he can be more efficient when he's down."
Vogelsong's place in the Giants' rotation doesn't appear to be in immediate danger, but he could need a strong outing to prevent speculation from materializing.
Vogelsong struggled in his most recent outing last Monday at Coors Field, where he allowed five earned runs and six hits, including three homers, in 1 1/3 innings. He matched his shortest start as a Giant and equaled the most home runs he had allowed in a Major League game.
"I'm definitely not happy about it," Vogelsong said. "It's embarrassing, really."
Vogelsong refused to attribute his ineffectiveness to Coors Field's reputation as a hitter-friendly park.
"I've had my fair share of good games here," Vogelsong said. "I just didn't throw good pitches. I didn't throw the ball where I wanted to or how I wanted to."
Indians: Santana staying put
Through 23 games played this season, Cleveland's cleanup man, Carlos Santana, has hit .128 (10-for-78) with one homer, three doubles, three RBIs, 21 walks and 20 strikeouts. Over his past 15 games, he has hit just .056 (3-for-54). Still, Francona believes patience is the best approach for his struggling fourth hitter.
Francona also feels that having the switch-hitting Santana between lefty hitters Jason Kipnis (third) and Michael Brantley (fifth) is important.
"Carlos is going to hit. I know it," Francona said. "And he's going to hit for power. He's going to be productive. It also helps having him in between Kip and Brantley. It helps them a little bit. So you've just got to try to be patient."
Giants: Suddenly homer-happy
After a 2013 season in which they finished next-to-last in the National League with 107 home runs, the Giants are flexing their muscles. For the first time in franchise history, the Giants amassed as many as 12 runs with homers accounting for each score in their 12-10 triumph Wednesday at Colorado. The Giants' previous high was 10 runs on April 18, 1947, against the Dodgers.
Before the Giants went on their six-homer binge at Coors Field, the last team to score 12 runs with all of them coming on homers was Baltimore against Toronto on Sept. 26, 2012.
Also, Hector Sanchez became the sixth player in the franchise's San Francisco history (since 1958) to bash an extra-inning grand slam when he won Wednesday's game in the 11th. He was preceded by Willie Mays (1967), Jack Hiatt (1969), Jeffrey Leonard (1983), Greg Litton (1992) and A.J. Pierzynski (2004).
• Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi is limited to pinch-hitting under National League rules these days, but the 43-year-old veteran ranks fifth all-time with 51 career home runs in Interleague Play. Leading that list are Jim Thome (64), Paul Konerko (58), Ken Griffey Jr. (55) and Alex Rodriguez (52).
• After Saturday's game, the Giants had recorded two hits or fewer with runners in scoring position in 13 consecutive games (.150 overall in that span). On the season, San Francisco was batting just .238 (43-for-181) in RISP situations.
• The Indians' lineup has little to no experience against Vogelsong. Center fielder Michael Bourn has the most at-bats against the 36-year-old starter with six. In that limited sample, Bourn has posted a .333 (2-for-6) average.