CLEVELAND — Fan favorite and former elite setup man Vinnie Pestano is back in the big leagues.
With the Indians not needing a fifth starter until July 1, right-hander Zach McAllister, who was activated from the disabled list Wednesday, was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Friday. Pestano, who was demoted to the minors after struggling to start the season, was recalled from the Clippers to take McAllister’s spot on the 25-man roster.
Pestano has been impressive in Columbus, where he posted a 2.78 ERA with six saves in 25 games. His last 13 appearances were scoreless.
“It sounds like the finish on his pitches has been more consistent,” manager Terry Francona said of Pestano, who made the team out of spring training but was optioned to Columbus after allowing six runs on eight hits in three appearances. “And he’s kind of back to dominating right-handed hitters. It’s been Triple-A, but (there’s been) a lot of swing-and-miss on his pitches, especially against right-handed hitters.”
Pestano, one of the American League’s top setup men from 2011-12, said he discovered mechanical issues once he arrived in Columbus.
“I got into a spot where right when I got down there and we started dissecting everything and really trying to figure out what the problems were, it ended up being more than a couple,” Pestano said. “I’ve just gotten to a point where I’m back to being comfortable on the mound. I don’t have to think about what my arm is doing here, what my legs are doing, and stuff like that. It’s been nice to go out there and be able to pitch without worrying about other things.”
Pestano’s velocity was down to start the season, but he said he’s throwing harder now.
“Yeah, the velo has been up,” he said. “I had a few back-to-back (outings) down there and I bounced back the next day and there wasn’t a huge drop in velo like there was in spring training. That’s going to come with months of the season. Hopefully, it’s not done climbing.”
Left fielder Michael Brantley (mild concussion) was held out of his third game, but ran the bases, took pregame batting practice and pinch hit in the ninth inning Friday. Francona said Brantley was cleared to play in the third or fourth inning.
Tigers first base coach and legendary Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel will be inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame in ceremonies prior to tonight’s game.
Vizquel, 47, spent 11 of his 24 big league seasons in Cleveland (1994-2004) and is still surprised by the recognition he and the Indians’ glory days of the ’90s receive.
“I’m amazed sometimes how people still think about those days and how people recognize you no matter where you’re at,” said Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove award winner who played on the Indians’ most recent World Series teams in 1995 and ’97. “It seems a while back but you always have it in the back of your heart and the back of your mind. Those really were the best times for me as a player.
“The whole World Series thing and the whole Cleveland era was in the 1990s. Here we are in 2014 and people still remember the names and remember the faces. It’s really pleasant to come to Cleveland and just share times with my buddies and talk about the years in the ’90s.”
Vizquel said he stopped at a toll booth in Sandusky on Thursday on his way into town. The female attendant recognized him and requested a photograph.
“This lady went crazy,” he said. “It was something that I couldn’t believe.”
Though most of Vizquel’s Cleveland memories are fond ones, he said he has yet to make amends with former closer Jose Mesa, whom Vizquel criticized in his 2003 autobiography, “Omar! My Life On and Off the Field.”
Once the book was published, Mesa vowed to hit Vizquel with pitches every time he faced him, and all but made good on the promise.
“The funny thing about it is that Jose was one of my best friends on the team,” Vizquel said. “His locker was right next to mine. I feel bad that I haven’t been able to talk to Jose and tell him I didn’t mean anything by what I said in the book.”
Former Indian Victor Martinez has fared well when facing his old team, entering Friday with a .367 batting average (69-for-188), seven home runs and 42 RBIs lifetime against Cleveland.
“I don’t think he’s biased, he’s good against everybody,” said Francona of Martinez, who ranked third in the American League through Thursday with a .328 batting average.
Martinez, who played for the Indians from 2002-09, entered Friday hitting .368 (7-for-19) with two homers and three RBIs in five games against Cleveland this year.
He hit his eighth career homer against the Indians Friday, a two-run shot in the fourth inning.
- Carlos Santana entered Friday batting .318 (14-for-44) with three homers and 10 RBIs in 13 games since returning from the 7-day concussion list. Santana was batting just .191 through Thursday, but ranked among the top 20 in the AL with a .353 on-base percentage. His 53 walks ranked second in the majors behind Toronto’s Jose Bautista (55).
- The Indians owned a 6-1 record in extra innings through Thursday.