Team officials said Thursday that Salazar had inflammation in his right shoulder during his offseason throwing program in mid-January. He returned to throwing, but is still several weeks behind.
"The thing we're focused on is making sure that Danny is ready to contribute for the bulk of the season the way we all know he is capable," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "If that is opening day, great. If it is later than that, that's fine. I think what we want to make sure we do is take the long view and try to get the most out of Danny for the bulk of the season."
Pitching has been one of Cleveland's strengths during its run to a major league-high 196 victories the past two seasons. The Indians led the majors in ERA (3.30) and shutouts (17) in 2017 with a rotation led by two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, which also includes Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer.
Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger both won at least 10 games while making at least 20 starts last year, and Clevinger was one of five Indians starters who averaged at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Salazar has experienced shoulder and elbow problems the past two seasons and was limited to 103 innings last year.
"Danny can be a special pitcher, and we are looking forward to when he can resurface in the rotation, but to have that depth at the outset is huge," said pitching coach Carl Willis, who rejoined the Indians this winter after spending the past three seasons in the same role in Boston.
The Indians' 70-year World Series drought is the longest in the majors, but Antonetti and the players said they do not look at 2018 as a way to take care of unfinished business after coming so close the past two years.
"There is nothing we can do about what happened in the past. But I know we have a group of people who are collectively committed to make sure we are the last team standing at the end," Antonetti said.
Cleveland returns much of the team that won 102 games and took a 2-0 lead on the New York Yankees before falling in the American League Division Series.
The Indians remain open-minded to adding to the roster via trade or free agency, Antonetti said, "but I don't think there will be any sort of significant financial investment."
Francona is expected to rejoin the team this weekend. His father died Tuesday.
Outfielder Michael Brantley (ankle) has resumed straight-ahead running and is participating in long toss and batting practice in the cage. "He's met every benchmark across the way this offseason," Antonetti said. "We'll know more as he progresses to turning and cutting and quick movements. We'll have a better sense of a timetable from there."
Outfielder Brandon Guyer (wrist) has been cleared for throwing and outfield work. He will be rechecked next week to see when he can start hitting.