By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: In an 18-hour span from late Tuesday night to late Wednesday afternoon, manager Terry Francona had two tough jobs: telling Vinnie Pestano he was being optioned to Columbus and spelling Rzepczynski on the Indians’ lineup card.
“We decided the best way for him to get back to being Vinnie Pestano was to send him to Triple-A,” Francona said. “It was not the most fun for Vinnie and not the most fun for me, either.”
Or as General Manager Chris Antonetti said, “It was a really difficult conversation, and it was a really difficult decision.”
Pestano was the Tribe’s lights-out setup man for two seasons, but he struggled this year.
The numbers tell the story. In 2011 and 2012, Pestano compiled an aggregate ERA of 2.45, averaging 3.3 walks and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. This season, his ERA rose to 4.05, and he has averaged 5.1 walks and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
“About three weeks ago, we took him out of that eighth-inning spot,” Francona said. “We wanted him to improve his consistency, but it became harder and harder to find places to use him because we had so many close games.”
Because of Pestano’s success, his work load became heavy (132 innings the past two years), and he probably needed to make some changes.
“He was not throwing as hard this year,” Francona said. “And when you’re pitching late in the game, it’s hard to make adjustments.”
Pestano missed time with a sore elbow, but Francona has no reason to think the injury is still an issue.
“Vinnie says he feels really good,” Francona said. “And he’s not getting any treatment out of the ordinary. When he came back [from the disabled list], he got a little long [in his delivery]. Was he doing something to protect his elbow? I don’t know. I don’t know if he knows.”
Pestano will have the luxury of working out his problems at Columbus then returning to Cleveland at some point.
“We expect Vinnie to help us this season,” Francona said.
The Tribe made the move with Pestano to make room for matchup lefty Marc Rzepczynski, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday. He comes to the Indians with a 7.84 ERA but has pitched only 10⅓ innings.
“I’m happy this happened,” Repczynski said. “My time in St. Louis was great, but with the arms they had, I knew I needed to go somewhere else. So I’m glad to be getting a new start.”
In explaining his struggles, he said, “For me, it’s my pitch selection. I got too fastball-happy. I don’t throw 98.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.