CLEVELAND: Indians manager Terry Francona loves relief pitchers.
It’s a well-known joke around Progressive Field that, left to his own devices to make roster moves, Francona would carry the necessary position player at each spot and the rest of the club would be made up of relievers.
Thus, it’s a good thing Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti keeps a firm hand on the club’s roster makeup. While Francona makes suggestions, Antonetti and his staff are there to rein in the veteran skipper from needing to build a bigger bullpen.
So, early Friday afternoon — just in time for the Detroit Tigers’ weekend-series visit — Francona was pleased to be able to expand the Tribe’s relief corps — for the time being at least. Right-hander Vinnie Pestano was recalled from Triple-A Columbus as the Indians are facing odd playing circumstances.
With Wednesday’s game against the visiting Angels rained out, coupled with scheduled off days in a four-day span on Monday and Thursday, the Indians won’t need a fifth starting pitcher again until July 1 in Los Angeles — during a three-game series against the Dodgers.
With starter Zach McAllister back in Columbus to continue to get work in until either he or T.J. House is recalled, the former seventh-inning set-up man returned. Pestano opened the season with the club before being shipped to the minors April 9, when the struggles that cost him his job last year resurfaced.
And if Pestano’s recent run is any indication, he could be back to stay. Over his last 18 appearances, he owns a 0.48 ERA with 20 strikeouts, three walks and a .172 average against.
“I found some mechanics that were consistent and repeatable, and I just kept doing that,” said Pestano, whose velocity has also increased a bit by cleaning up his delivery. “So, I got into a spot where, right when I got down there and we started dissecting everything … it ended up being more than a couple things. You can’t work on a bunch of different mechanical issues at once. So, I had to work on one. And when one felt like it was place, I worked on another.”
The numerous issues included the way Pestano broke up his hands, his timing, staying back on the rubber and even balancing his weight more through the zone.
“Over the past month or so, it’s been coming together,” he said.
A MONTH LATER — Oh, how the mighty have fallen over the last month. The last time the Detroit Tigers visited Cleveland, on May 19, they were 27-12 with a seven-game lead in the American League Central Division, fresh off a sweep of the host Boston Red Sox as part of a six-game winning streak.
At the same time, the last-place Indians were reeling, coming off an embarrassing weekend sweep by the visiting Oakland A’s. But out of nowhere, the Tribe went on to sweep the Tigers in the three-game series — a shock that still reverberates today as the Tigers return to Progressive Field having gone 10-21 since the Indians sparked their downward spiral. Over that span, the Tribe has gone 18-11 and the red-hot Royals 17-11 as they’ve taken over the division lead.
— Stephanie Storm