It was just over two months ago that the Indians optioned Danny Salazar to the Minors to work on his mechanics. Through April and part of May, the young right-hander was 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA and looked a far cry from the pitcher who had been so impressive through the second half of 2013.
After posting a 4.02 ERA in 10 starts with Triple-A Columbus, Salazar will have another chance to show the Indians that his problems are behind him when he faces the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field.
"I just have to prove that I am back," Salazar said. "That the Danny Salazar they saw last year is back."
Whether Salazar can regain his old form will be the big question. The Indians sent him down because the delivery that had led him to so much success last year had slowly morphed into one that was getting him into trouble. However, Salazar said he has since made great strides in reclaiming those mechanics.
"I've been watching pictures of last year and this year -- the difference is really big," Salazar said. "My front shoulder was too far up. I was leaning back."
Tribe manager Terry Francona added that Salazar has worked on building up his arm strength so that he could prevent wearing down in the third, fourth and fifth innings as he did earlier this season.
"He's a lot closer to the pitcher we saw last year then he was earlier in the year," Francona said.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Yohan Pinto, who will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester ahead of Tuesday's game. The 30-year-old picked up his first Major League win during his last start after holding the Mariners to one run on seven hits over five innings.
Pino struggled in his lone start with Rochester over the All-Star break, allowing five runs and walking seven over five frames, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire noted that the pitcher had taken something of an experimental approach to that game.
"He told me he was just working on a few things, so we'll leave it at that," Gardenhire said. "We're excited to have him back up here. He really competes hard and changes speeds. It's nice to have him back up here for another start. We'll throw that one out from the Minor Leagues."
Twins: Still no timetable for Mauer's return
First baseman Joe Mauer, who has been on the disabled list since July 2 with a strained oblique, has started taking dry swings in addition to continuing his work taking grounders in the field. However, the Twins remain unsure of when the former American League MVP could potentially begin a rehab assignment.
"He gets a little sore after these things but it's progressing good," Gardenhire said. "He's coming along."
Gardenhire noted that Mauer will have to progress to working off a tee and hitting soft toss before he can resume live batting practice. Mauer, 31, has hit .271 with two homers and 28 RBIs this season.
Indians: Asdrubal exits game with back spasms
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was forced to make an early exit from Monday night's series opener with the Twins due to lower back spasms.
Cabrera appeared to suffer the injury while fielding a grounder hit by Chris Parmelee during the second inning. The Tribe had Chris Dickerson pinch-hit for Cabrera in the following frame while Mike Aviles moved in from center field to replace him at shortstop.
The 28-year-old has hit .247/.308/.392 with nine homers through 94 games this season and has been discussed as a possible candidate to be traded before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.
• Right-hander Justin Masterson (right knee inflammation) will make another rehab start before rejoining the Indians. The 29-year-old allowed two runs and struck out six over five innings with Columbus on Sunday.
• Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis was named the AL Player of the Week on Monday after going 5-for-15 with two homers and six RBIs during last weekend's four-game set with the Tigers.
• Minnesota's Kendrys Morales extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games with a 1-for-4 performance on Monday night.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.