By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: It has been a long year for Vinnie Pestano but maybe not long enough.
No player on the Indians’ roster has fallen farther or faster than Pestano. Last year at this time, he was completing his second season as a lock-down setup man. During this span, he appeared in 137 games, worked 132 innings and compiled a 2.45 ERA with 160 strikeouts.
Toward the end of the 2012 schedule, Pestano felt himself beginning to slip a little. When he came to spring training, he was determined to make amends.
But an elbow injury eventually shut Pestano down for the first two weeks of May. When he returned, something was missing. It remains so today.
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint anything,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve tried so hard to figure out what happened, but we don’t know how to make him better.”
Pestano spent August at Triple-A Columbus, where he had good outings and bad, but there was no moment when the light bulb came on. Still, he was recalled in September.
“After I went down, I didn’t expect to be called up in September,” Pestano said. “They sent me down there to figure it out, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Pestano’s pitching coaches at Columbus and Cleveland haven’t found any major flaws in his delivery.
“I think there’s a lack of finishing his fastball,” said Francona, indicating that the late movement is missing. “He’s tried to find it, but it’s been frustrating.”
Pestano seems to be searching in vain for something that’s not there.
“A lot of it is feel,” he said. “There’s not a lot to see when I watch video. But from the time the ball leaves my hand and gets to the catcher is not the same as it used to be. Ever since I came off the DL, it hasn’t been the same.”
“The late life on my fastball isn’t there. That’s obvious. But I can’t see anything that’s different. I don’t know what I can work on.”
Confidence is a significant component of any athlete’s ability to perform; Pestano said his confidence hasn’t waned, but he clearly is beating himself up about his disappointing season that includes six saves but a 4.08 ERA.
“I don’t think it’s my confidence,” he said. “But we have lots of guys in the bullpen, and when my name isn’t called, it still hurts.”
Francona has seen Pestano growing more impatient.
“Vinnie is tough on himself,” Francona said. “I told him that this might not come on your timetable, but you’ll get there.”
Pestano would like to believe that.
“I try to give them a reason to trust me, to have confidence that I can be a viable option,” he said. “It’s been a pretty exhausting season, mentally and physically, trying to figure out the answer.”
“And not pitching [in meaningful games] has been excruciatingly painful.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.