TORONTO: What if you did your job in front of thousands of spectators, and you did it as well or better than anyone in the world, but nobody knew?
Hello, Vinnie Pestano.
The Indians’ setup man is that guy. Oh, sure, his teammates realize his value. So does manager Manny Acta. But what about SportsCenter and Fox Sports, plus tens of millions of fans who don’t live in Northeast Ohio? To them, he is Vinnie who?
“It’s just like an offensive lineman,” Pestano said Sunday. “The quarterback takes you to dinner after the game. As a relief pitcher, you have to get used to it, because it’s your job.”
For Pestano, the basics come down to these 2012 numbers: a 3-0 record, 1.70 ERA, 22 hits, 15 walks and 45 strikeouts in 37 innings and a batting average against of .168.
Breaking it down further, right-handed hitters are batting .104 against him; lefties, .234. Opposing teams’ 3, 4 and 5 hitters are batting .180 against Pestano and have no home runs but 16 strikeouts in 50 at-bats.
In his past 15 appearances, Pestano has given up one run. He has allowed two runs in an inning only once in his past 64 appearances, dating to last year.
The anonymity of setup men is everywhere. Seldom do any relievers but closers get selected for the All-Star Game. Only one inning separates the setup man from the closer, but that inning is worth millions of dollars.
Closer Chris Perez will make $4.5 million this year, compared with $491,000 for Pestano. Part of the disparity has to do with Perez being arbitration eligible; Pestano is not. But that doesn’t explain the entire difference.
“That’s just the way it is,” Pestano said of the variance in job descriptions. “The closer gets most of the credit, but he also is the last one to take the ball.”
Last year, in his first full big-league season, Pestano was merely excellent, posting a 2.32 ERA in 67 outings.
“I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel going into this year,” he said. “I just needed to execute my pitches. I didn’t want to be walking guys.”
Pestano has a secret weapon. Not even he knows when it will appear or how he makes it happen. His two-seam fastball, which for almost every other right-handed pitcher veers into the hands of a right-handed batter, takes a slight break to the outside, as if it were a cutter.
“I don’t know when it’s going to do that, and I don’t know how I do it,” Pestano said. “I don’t want to know and start having to think about it.”
As long as the quarterback keeps taking him out to dinner, it doesn’t matter.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.