TORONTO -- Before this season started, the Indians informed Danny Salazar that there might be times he is given extra days of rest in order to keep other starters on their regular schedules. Such a situation came up this week for the three-game series in Toronto.
With a team off-day on Monday, Cleveland pushed Salazar's start to Thursday, giving the 24-year-old right-hander seven days of rest between outings. By doing that, the Indians were able to keep Justin Masterson (Tuesday's starter) and Corey Kluber (Wednesday) on a normal five-day schedule.
"I've got some extra days to work on things that I need to work on," Salazar said on Tuesday. "I think that's fine. They told me that sometimes, if we have a day off like that, especially with Masterson, they might move me. It doesn't bother me."
This will mark the fourth time this season -- half of Salazar's starts -- that he will pitch with more than the typical four days of rest. It will be the third time that the righty takes the mound with at least six days off between starts.
Salazar has shown improvement of late, going 1-0 with a 3.44 ERA in his past three starts, in which he has 21 strikeouts, five walks and a .669 opponents' OPS in 18 1/3 innings. In his first four starts of the season, Salazar went 0-3 with a 7.85 ERA, posting 23 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 1.036 opponents' OPS in 18 1/3 innings. He has thrown 63 percent strikes in his past three outings, compared to 59 percent in those first four turns.
The Indians were conservative with Salazar's innings last season and the club eased him into things throughout this past Spring Training as well. Salazar does not feel the extra days off are due to his workload, but simply a way to keep some of the more veteran starters on their typical five-day program.
"I don't think it's so much that," Salazar said of Cleveland's history of protecting his innings. "They just want to get the other guys in line."
Rzepczynski back in Toronto with fond memories
TORONTO -- The last time Marc Rzepczynski was in Toronto, he was packing his bags for St. Louis. The Blue Jays traded the left-hander to the Cardinals midway through the 2011 season, which was Rzepczynski's first year working as a reliever.
Three years later, Rzepczynski is back north of the border as a member of the Indians' bullpen. The lefty will always have a soft spot for Toronto.
"This is my first time back," Rzepczynski said on Tuesday. "I'm just trying to remember where everything's at. I'm remembering good places to go and getting familiarized with the city again. I loved playing here. They gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues, starting and relieving. My career has continued and, if I wasn't turned into a reliever, who knows where I'd be now?
"I was pretty fortunate, pretty lucky to be with the guys that I played with. I loved the city at the time. Unfortunately, we didn't always have the best teams, but the guys were always great. They always treated me well."
The Blue Jays selected Rzepczynski in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and promoted him to help the rotation during the 2009 campaign. The left-hander worked as a starter for part of two seasons for Toronto, but transitioned to a relief role in '11. After posting a 2.97 ERA in 43 games for the Jays that season, Toronto dealt him to St. Louis as part of an eight-player swap on July 27.
That trade allowed Rzepczynski to be a part of the Cardinals' World Series triumph over the Rangers in 2011. St. Louis, in turn, traded the lefty to the Indians at the July 31 Trade Deadline last summer. He posted a 0.89 ERA in 27 games for Cleveland in '13 and currently has a 2.63 ERA through 19 appearances for the Tribe this season.
"It's definitely fun to be back in town," Rzepczynski said. "Everybody asks, 'Would you ever play here again if you had the opportunity?' Yeah, I love the city of Toronto. It's great. I will always remember where I was when I got drafted, when I got to the big leagues, when I got the call.
"They gave the opportunity at 23 [years old]. It was unfortunate, all the injuries they had in 2009, but they gave me the chance and, six years later, I'm still pitching."
Kipnis making progress in rehab for oblique
TORONTO -- Indians All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis continues to inch closer to returning to the field.
On Tuesday, Cleveland manager Terry Francona said that Kipnis -- on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique -- recently resumed hitting off a tee. The second baseman is still working through a gradual rehab schedule, but the Indians are pleased with the strides he is making behind the scenes.
"He's doing really well," Francona said prior to Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays. "He's hitting off a tee and stuff. They're starting to try to line up a program to return to play. He's still a little ways from that, but he's making good progress."
On April 29, Kipnis was injured on a swing in a fourth-inning at-bat against the Angels. The second baseman promptly exited and Cleveland placed him on the 15-day DL on May 2. The Indians initially projected that Kipnis would need between three to five weeks to recover prior to being activated.
That timeframe consists of the period between May 20-June 3, though the Indians have been careful not to say specifically when Kipnis might rejoin the team. Francona did say on Tuesday that Kipnis will need to take part in a Minor League rehab assignment before coming off the DL.
Through 27 games this season, Kipnis has hit .234 with three home runs, six doubles, four stolen bases, 12 RBIs, 17 walks and 12 runs scored. On April 4, Cleveland inked Kipnis to a six-year contract extension worth $52.5 million.
Quote to note
"Right now, Ax is struggling a little bit, but he's going to come back being John Axford. He's going to come back and take over that spot. Obviously for now, hopefully the four of us can kind of pick him up while he's getting his things back in order. We're just going to try to fill in until he's back."
--Indians righty Bryan Shaw, one of four relievers handling the closing duties while Axford works through command issues
• Francona believes there has been a lot of gray area this season when it comes to enforcing Major League Baseball's new guidelines for home-plate collisions. Francona believes it is good that MLB is looking to better define the rules involving the positioning of catchers and baserunners on plays at the plate.
"They're trying, I know. I don't think it's easy," Francona said. "I don't think it's been enforced to everybody's satisfaction. The reasoning behind it is good. You don't want to see catchers get concussions or get hit -- I understand that. But, when you put a rule into effect, you've got to enforce it. I don't think it has been."
• Entering this three-game series, the Indians were tied with the Braves and Tigers for the fewest home runs (24) allowed as a pitching staff. Cleveland might be tested by the Blue Jays' offense, which headed into Tuesday's game ranked first in the American League and second in the Majors with 52 home runs.
• On Tuesday, the Indians named low Class A Lake County right-hander Adam Plutko the organization's Minor League player of the week for May 5-11. On May 6, the 22-year-old Plutko (selected in the 11th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft) struck out 13 and yielded only three hits in eight shutout innings against Bowling Green.
• Catcher George Kottaras, who was designated for assignment by the Indians on Wednesday, cleared waivers and has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus. On May 4, Kottaras became the first player in Indians history to hit a home run in his first two career plate appearances with the ballclub.