BOSTON: Indians pitcher Vinnie Pestano lay on a small massage table just outside of manager Terry Francona’s office Sunday morning in the cramped shoebox that is the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.
Pestano was in the midst of a massage while Francona met with the media for his daily pregame question-and-answer session. But with the locker room being so small, the office door was left open despite Pestano being within earshot when Francona was asked about his setup man’s recent struggles.
Pestano hasn’t been the same since recently coming off the disabled list with elbow soreness. More proof came Saturday in his four-run eighth-inning meltdown that led the Tribe’s 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.
If Pestano is worried about his place on the team, those concerns might have been temporarily put to rest after his skipper’s comments about him.
“I think I said it to Vinnie, and I might even have told [the media], that when he comes back, there might be a little rust and he’s gotta shake it off,” Francona said. “Like a hitter with a track record, this is a pitcher with a pretty damn impressive track record the way he competes, the way he cares. So I wouldn’t want to run away from him, I just want to help him.”
But it’s been hard to determine exactly what Pestano needs. He said after Saturday’s outing that the velocity on his fastball was down to 87-88 mph from his usual 92-93 mph. Yet, he said he’s not feeling any pain.
“I’m trying to throw as hard as I can,” Pestano said Saturday. “The only thing I can equate to it is I took two weeks off without throwing and arms do tend to regress a little bit. It’s not spring training where you can build arm strength throwing bullpens every day — you can’t wear yourself out like that. I’m trying to pick and choose my moments through catch play and stuff to make it stronger.”
Trying to build up his arm strength is essentially what Pestano had been doing — albeit in live games.
“It’s like in spring training when guys are throwing, they have to build up arm speed,” Francona said. “That’s what he’s doing now. Like a hitter when you’re not [batting well], your swing is long. Well, right now that’s how he is as a pitcher. But it’ll be fine. There’s not any medial issues; we already got through that. We just gotta get him back to being Vinnie.”
But now — at least until Pestano is back up to speed — Francona made it sound like he’ll do so outside of situations where a game is on the line.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Francona said. “We’re good. We’ll do fine. We have a good bullpen. We have so many different ways to go that on days when somebody’s not available, I don’t ever feel handcuffed.
“And that’s an unbelievable feeling, I remember days here [in Boston] where we had [Daniel] Bard and [Jonathan] Papelbon and although we had some other guys, trying to maneuver to get to those two guys [was tough]. Right now, we’ll send Cody [Allen] or [Bryan] Shaw or [Matt] Albers or Rich [Hill] out there. We have a ton of confidence in all of them.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.