In what can only be described as a shocking turn of events, the Cleveland Indians optioned set-up man Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus in order to make room on the 25-man roster for the newly acquired Marc Rzepczynski.
The move is surprising because Pestano has been a staple of the Indians bullpen mafia since the start of 2011. He is beloved by both fans and teammates, thus making the scene inside the locker room quite emotional, at least according to reports from Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.
However, the move to send Pestano down to Columbus is easy to defend. Not only that, but it was probably the right move to make given everything we have seen unfold this season in regards to Pestano. Simply put, he hasn’t been the same dominant setup man we have seen in years past. Pestano has been a shell of his former self and has yet to find himself in 2013.
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In fact, Pestano hasn’t just been a shell of his former self, he has been downright awful. In 33.1 innings of work this season, Pestano has accumulated an ERA of 4.05. For his career, Pestano’s ERA was 2.50 heading into 2013. That’s not even the worst part. While Pestano is giving up far more runs than he had in year’s past, he just hasn’t been as dominant. His walks per nine innings is a career worst 5.1 while his walks to strikeouts ratio is a career low 1.79. Just how bad are these numbers? Before this season, Pestano’s career rates were 3.5 and 3.17 respectively.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Pestano’s struggles has been his inability to keep the ball in the park. We have seen time and time again as hitters for opposing teams take Pestano deep in late game situations. This isn’t an illusion. Pestano has allowed six home runs in 33.1 innings while allowing only 12 home runs in 137 innings of work from 2010 through 2012. Of course, that will happen when you are striking out fewer batters while also allowing more fly balls at the same time.
The biggest issue for Pestano, however, has been injuries paired with a decrease in velocity. He spent time on the DL earlier this season with soreness in his right elbow. While he has been able to come back and pitch following the 15 day DL stint, it is more than apparent that the elbow still isn’t right, but rest isn’t something he is likely to get until well after the season comes to a close.
All of these factors put together helps build the case for why sending Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A is the right move. He hasn’t been the same pitcher we have seen in the past and he has been wildly ineffective. The end result has been a pitcher that not only can the Indians not rely on, but who also is beginning to show the tell-tale signs of a lack of confidence in his stuff. A brief stint in Triple-A to work on rebuilding his confidence against lesser hitters may be just what Pestano needs to help get himself back on the right track.
By throwing less stressful innings in Columbus, it is possible for Pestano to refine his mechanics and his pitches in order to rebuild himself into an effective pitcher once again. If the velocity that was a staple of his repertoire can’t be found, he will need to learn how to adjust to it. Simply put, Pestano will need to learn how to truly pitch and not just to throw.
Have we seen the last of Vinnie Pestano in 2013? I doubt it. With bullpens being as fickle as they typically are and injuries always a possibility, it should come as a shock to no one to see Pestano summoned from the depths of Triple-A to regain control of his spot setting up Chris Perez in the eighth. Until then, the Indians will rely on the vertical depth they have built within their organization to manage late game situations moving forward.