Teammates Pestano and Aviles Face One Another Tonight but Not For First Time
By Mike Brandyberry
If Mike Aviles digs into the batter’s box tonight in a late-inning situation against Vinnie Pestano, it might seem odd for Indians fans to see teammates facing off against one another, but Pestano should be comfortable in the situation—he’s done it since the first pitch of his big league career.
Pestano’s Team USA will face off against Aviles’ Team Puerto Rico tonight at 8 pm at Marlins Park in Miami to open each countries second round in the World Baseball Classic. The second round is a double-elimination format, so the loser of tonight’s game will immediately find themselves on the brink of elimination.
Aviles helped his Puerto Rican team go 2-1 this weekend and advance out of pool play. He was 3 for 9, with a home run and six runs batted in. The team’s only loss was to the Dominican Republic on Sunday evening. Aviles’ two-run homer was the only offensive production in the 5-2 loss, setting up tonight’s game with the United States and Pestano.
Pestano is slated to pitch in tonight’s contest, potentially setting up Team USA’s closer Craig Kimbrel just like he does Chris Perez during the regular season. With Aviles hitting fifth in the Team Puerto Rico lineup, it’s possible the two could face one another in a tight situation.
If they do, Pestano has the upper hand. Aviles is 0 for 6 against him with three strike outs and has left four runners on base. Aviles was a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2010 and 2011 before being traded mid-season in 2011 to the Boston Red Sox. He played the last year and a half in Beantown before being traded to Toronto this winter and eventually to Cleveland where he’ll be Pestano’s teammate.
Pestano has been getting Aviles out since the first pitch of his career, however. Fresh off their Triple-A National Championship victory, Pestano was a late season call-up to the Tribe in 2010. When he made his Major League debut on Sept. 23 against the Royals in the top of the ninth, it was Aviles who was in the batter’s box, the first hitter he faced in his big league career. Aviles grounded out to first base for the first out of the inning, but the Royals won the game 4-2.
Three days later on Sept. 26, with the season winding down, Indians Manager Manny Acta elected to rest closer Chris Perez and give the ball to Pestano in the ninth inning. He had saved 17 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in 2010. As he took the ball for his first big league save opportunity, the first hitter he faced again was Aviles. This time Pestano struck him out swinging for the first out in his first Major League save, an Indians 5-3 victory.
Pestano continued his success over Aviles in 2011 in all three matchups. During the Tribe’s early 30-15 start in 2011 over the first 45 games, Pestano got the best of Aviles in two April wins. On Apr. 18, Pestano relieved Carlos Carrasco in the seventh inning and struck out Aviles for the final out while a runner was stranded on third base during a 3-3 tie game. The Tribe later won 7-3 in 10 innings.
Two days later on Apr. 20 Pestano struck out Aviles for the third straight time in their matchups. This time with the Royals trailing 6-2, but with the bases loaded. The seventh inning strikeout, leaving the bases loaded, helped the Indians to a 7-5 victory.
On July 30, 2011, Aviles was dealt from Kansas City to Boston to help strengthen their infield for a playoff push. Three days later on Aug. 2 Aviles flew out to center field off Pestano for the first out of the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie game. Jason Varitek, Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with three straight singles to give the Red Sox a 3-2 walkoff victory in Fenway Park.
Last season the two only matched up once, with Aviles flying out to center field on May 10 in a Tribe 8-3 victory.
Pestano is likely slated to pitch in this evening’s game. He has not seen action since Friday evening, working a clean three-up, three-down sixth inning during Team USA’s 5-2 loss to Mexico. Aviles will certainly be in the middle of Puerto Rico’s lineup. He’s hit sixth, behind Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran in the team’s three games.
In 21 days the two will wear the same Indians jersey in Toronto, taking the field to begin a 162-game voyage, but tonight they represent their countries where every game determines team’s fate. While Pestano has had the upper hand in their careers, Aviles has the hot hand.
Experienced foes, representing their country and future teammates.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer