Stephanie Storm’s 5 final thoughts on the Indians 6-5 victory over the host Texas Rangers Monday at Surprise Stadium.
1) It was just one inning of a spring training game, but if one inning can reveal a little something, then Vinnie Pestano appears to be on the right track in an effort to reclaim a place in the Indians bullpen. Pestano needed just seven pitches to toss a 1-2-3 fifth inning in his first spring training appearance Monday.
Afterwards, his arm still red from a post-game ice treatment, Pestano downplayed the significance of the outing in his usual style of self-deprecating humor, but beyond it all had to be some relief.
“They were out there hacking,” Pestano said. “I didn’t really get into a rhythm, but I’m not going to complain. It was the cleanest inning I’ve had in about 16 months.”
Pestano was one of the game’s best eighth-inning set-up men for two seasons before hitting the wall last year. After pitching in the World Baseball Classic last spring, he dealt with a nagging right elbow injury that cost him his job and a trip to the minor leagues. Now, if one inning is any indication, the old Pestano could be back.
2) Before Pestano took the mound, Corey Kluber started the game with two solid innings in which the Rangers managed only to scratch out an unearned run. It was an improved showing from his debut earlier in the week, when the quiet right-hander gave up two run on two hits in an inning against the Reds.
Francona said recently that experience is the only thing that Kluber and fellow youngster Zach McAllister still need to be able to pick up the slack created by the loss of veteran free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir.
“He’s right, we don’t have the experience of some of the other guys,” Kluber said. “But I think with myself, Zach, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco - or whoever ends up being in the rotation - that we all feel confident in ourselves and each other that we can still go out there and give the team a chance to win every time out.”
3) Two spring training invitees made the difference offensively Monday in shortstop Elliot Johnson and outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who combined for five of the Indians’ 11 hits on the afternoon.
Both in camp on minor leagues, Johnson went 3-for-3 with two RBI, including a two-run triple that snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning. Veteran Francoeur also showed he still has some baseball left in him as well, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“In spring training, there’s balance – guys have to get ready for the season,” Francona said. “But the non-roster guys, this is kind of like the regular season for them. So we try to respectful and make sure we give them their at-bats and they’re doing the things we thought they could do. Elliot Johnson can move around the field (defensively) and can run, Francoeur gets a couple hits. I hope they all do great and we have a couple tough decisions to make.”
4) Back in Goodyear at the Indians complex, right-handed ace Justin Masterson and reliever Frank Herrmann (recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery) each pitched in a simulated game Sunday, partially due to Saturday’s game being rained out.
Francona said it’s comforting to have a guy like Masterson who can be counted on to get his work in regardless of the situation. As for Herrmann, who’s nearing the year benchmark in his recovery, Francona and his staff continue to preach patience with the rehab process until he’s able to pitch in a Cactus League game, which could be in the next week and a half to two weeks.
Both pitched against minor leaguers, now that the rest of the organization’s players have reported.
5) Finally, courtesy of Bob Nightengale’s story in USA Today on Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson spending the day with the Rangers before, during and after the game after being picked up by the club in December’s Rule 5 Draft.
“We knew how much Russell wanted to get into the game,” Texas general manager Jon Daniels said. “But after talking to (Rangers manager Ron Washington), he told Russell ‘Man, I just can’t do that. We wouldn’t be able to sleep at night on the half-percent chance that something would happen.’’’
To which Wilson, who took time to speak to the Rangers minor leaguers in the morning before working out with the big leaguers before the game, replied: “I get hit by 300-pound lineman all the time. What’s gonna happen?”
Well, a fastball in the ear for one thing, but I get your point, Russell.