Danny Salazar did not feel nervous when he took the mound at Progressive Field for the American League Wild Card Game last October. The pitcher did not experience the kind of jitters that can often go along with that kind of high-pressure environment.
Salazar admits to being a little bit nervous right now.
Come Friday, Salazar will be back on the hill in Cleveland, opening up the Tribe's home slate against the Twins. The Indians will have another sold-out crowd on hand to celebrate the beginning of another season, and once again cheer on the hard-throwing right-hander.
"I'm just preparing myself mentally right now," Salazar said. "I think this is the first time that I feel a little bit nervous before I start a game."
Salazar said he was relaxed in the moments leading up to the Wild Card Game.
What is the difference now?
"I don't know. It's the first game of the season at home," Salazar said. "I closed the year last year, and I'm opening the year at home this year. It's something new for me. I think that's why I'm a little nervous. I know that as soon as I throw the first pitch, I'll be fine after that."
Opposite Twins righty Mike Pelfrey, Salazar's 2014 debut will mark the start of his quest to build on last season's success. Salazar made only 10 starts for Cleveland down the stretch last year, but he posted a 3.12 ERA and struck out 65 batters in 52 innings. His 65 strikeouts were the most by an Indians starter in his first 10 starts since 1957, when Herb Score had 92.
It was a small sample size, and only a brief taste of the Major Leagues, but Salazar said he learned a valuable lesson.
"You have to make quick adjustments," Salazar said. "With your pitches, with your delivery, there's only a short period of time that you have to make the adjustment. If you need to do something, you have to do it right away on the next pitch."
Pelfrey is looking to bounce back after posting a 5.19 ERA with the Twins last season in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal this offseason to stay in Minnesota, and he's confident that the Twins will feature an improved rotation this time around.
"Last year, our biggest struggle was starting pitching," Pelfrey said, "and I think it's going to be a night-and-day difference. If you are going to turn it around, pitching is the way to turn it around. One through five, we'll be able to keep us in games and give us a chance -- and that is all you can ask for."
Cleveland's home opener will fall on the 20th anniversary of the opening of Progressive Field.
Former Indians catcher and current first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will receive the ceremonial first pitch from former manager Mike Hargrove. The Indians will also raise a 20th-anniversary flag and show a video tribute to the first game against the Mariners at then-Jacobs Field on April 4, 1994.
Gates will open at 1 p.m. ET and the Indians are encouraging fans to get to their seats by 2:30 p.m. to enjoy the pregame events.
"Everybody loves going home. It feels like it's been forever," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Home openers are always special. Openers are special, but home openers are really special."
Twins: Suzuki moving up and down order
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire used catcher Kurt Suzuki as his second hitter in Monday's season opener against the White Sox, but then bumped him down to the lineup's seventh spot for Wednesday's game.
Gardenhire said Suzuki will see action in various spots for the time being.
"We're going to move him up and down the lineup," Gardenhire said, "and we're going to move our lineup around an awful lot."
The Twins manager added that he will try to work both Suzuki and catcher Josmil Pinto into the lineup on a regular basis.
"Suzuki is our starter, so he's going to catch a lot of games," Gardenhire said. "Pinto is going to play a lot, too. So we'll get Pinto into a lot of ballgames."
Pinto subbed for Suzuki in Thursday's finale vs. the White Sox and hit a big game-tying homer in the eighth inning that helped the Twins win their first game of the season, 10-9.
Indians: Morgan making most of chances
Indians outfielder Nyjer Morgan is trying to make the most of his opportunities until center fielder Michael Bourn is ready to return from the 15-day disabled lit.
Against right-handed starters on Monday and Wednesday, Morgan started in center field and in the leadoff spot in place of Bourn, who is out with an injured left hamstring. When Bourn rejoins Cleveland, Morgan will likely shift to a reserve role if he is still on the bench.
"I plan on doing whatever I can to help the team every time I step on the field," Morgan said. "That can be coming in as a pinch runner, or whatever. Whatever it takes to win."
The current plan is to have Bourn take part in a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus through at least Friday. After that, the center fielder will likely be re-evaluated, because he will be eligible to be activated on Saturday.
• Indians closer John Axford held a social-media contest (via fan voting) to decide his entrance music this season. More than 24,000 votes were cast and the winning song (either "Working Man" by Rush or "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys) will be revealed prior to Axford's first appearance at Progressive Field.
• Coming off a strong spring, during which he hit .327 in 18 games, Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks picked up four hits in his first two games of the season. A year ago. Hicks started the season mired in a 2-for-48 slump.
• Gardenhire currently has 999 career managerial wins. When the Twins skipper reaches career win No. 1,000, he will become the 60th manager in Major League history to accomplish the feat.