If former Cleveland hurler Danny Salazar even toes the rubber for the big-league Yankees, he’ll be completing one of the sport’s great comeback stories. Step one, of course, is signing on the dotted line.
Reports emerged late Thursday that Salazar, out of baseball since 2019 and out of his comfort zone since long before that, had inked a minor-league pact with the Yankees. This was stunning for a number of reasons, first and foremost because Salazar’s single big-league start since 2017 would indicate the 32-year-old’s playing days were likely long behind him.
On a logistical level, too, the Yankees already have a severely overcrowded Triple-A rotation, with Double-A stud Ken Waldichuk’s lines begging for a promotion as well. This would indicate Salazar will start out of the bullpen, which shouldn’t be an issue considering his very existence on the diamond is miraculous.
Could Salazar make an impact on the big-league team this season, or at least reach their radar? It happened to Manny Bañuelos. It’s not crazy.
When Mike Rodriguez had the report first, though (eventually cited by Jon Heyman), it was easy to knee-jerk react as if the addition wouldn’t come to fruition/wouldn’t “matter”.
By any metric, Salazar coming close to the bigs again certainly matters in the grand scheme.
Cleveland star Danny Salazar injury history, signs with Yankees
The last time we actually saw Salazar in action — not in his difficult four-inning start at the end of 2019, but at his peak — he was rounding a corner as the 2017 postseason approached, capping off a season with 145 Ks in 103 innings with a one-hit, nine-strikeout gem.
An elbow injury delayed his arrival during that season, and an arm injury had also knocked him out of the 2016 postseason prior to the World Series. Then came shoulder surgery that erased 2018 and messed with his 2019. A groin strain in his comeback start in 2019 sliced that season off at just one game, and Salazar quickly left the team to recalibrate.
He hasn’t been back since, but he’s still just 32.
Still wondering why the Yankees, of all teams, decided to pursue the 2016 All-Star? How about his filthy changeup and Matt Blake’s familiarity with the Cleveland pitching staff. If there’s anyone who can still get the most out of Salazar’s ingredients, it’s Blake.
Will Yankee fans see Salazar at the big-league level this season? The odds are against him. Hell, the odds are still against him ever toeing the rubber.
For years, Salazar’s career trajectory has mimicked his changeup, diving down and away. Perhaps now, he’s going for the heater instead.