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Indians report: Extra relievers won’t change strategy much for Terry Francona

By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer

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CLEVELAND: Having 14 relievers might require a reserved seat in the Indians’ bullpen, but it doesn’t mean manager Terry Francona will alter the usual way he maneuvers his pitchers.

If a starter throws six innings and the Tribe’s three back-end relievers are available, it will be Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Chris Perez handling the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

But things don’t always work out that way. For one thing, the Indians don’t always have the lead.

Monday afternoon against the Baltimore Orioles, Justin Masterson had to leave with an injury before retiring a batter in the second inning, and Francona used seven relievers to get through the game.

If you got ’em, flaunt ’em is one way to look at it. Trying to win is the objective, but so is evaluating for next year.

Vinnie Pestano has returned from Triple-A Columbus after spending the past two months trying to work out his problems. After being a lockdown setup man for two years, he began to slide this season, at least partly because of an elbow injury that kept him on the disabled list for two weeks in May.

“We want to get him back to where he’s feeling good about himself,” Francona said. “At Columbus, he had a few outings that were not so good and others that were good.”

It was clear before Pestano was sent to Columbus that he felt a deep responsibility for letting down his teammates and was not averse to beating himself up about it.

“I know it was killing him not to get people out, but I think Vinnie is pretty strong mentally,” Francona said.

One of the newcomers to Cleveland is Blake Wood, called up this month after recuperating from elbow reconstruction surgery last year. The Indians claimed him on waivers from the Kansas City Royals in November and sent him to Triple-A in mid-July.

In 2010 and 2011, Wood made 106 appearances for the Royals. He struck out 93 in 119⅓ innings, but he walked 54, an average of 4.1 per nine innings, too many for a reliever.

But at 28, he has room to mature as a pitcher. So what is Wood’s upside?

“He throws 97-98,” Francona said. “It will be interesting to find out what it is. He was starting to find his niche in Kansas City when he got hurt. If he has command and controls the running game, you have a late-inning pitcher.”

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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