Pestano’s Success Has Him Hungry For 2012
By Mike Brandyberry
Despite a surprising 2011 season that had the Indians exceeding expectations, it didn’t end the way reliever Vinnie Pestano wanted it to and left him hungry for 2012.
“Last season was my first losing season I have been a part of since I was 13, and hopefully it’s the last for a long, long time,” Pestano said. “Taking the loss the last game of the year hurt a lot. That was the difference in us being .500 and still stings as I think about it now.”
He’s already preparing himself for the 2012 season, working out daily at the Indians’ facilities in Goodyear, Ariz. A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Pestano moved to Goodyear two years ago to better prepare himself in the off-season. “I’ve been working out since the beginning of November, and workouts are going well,” he said. “I moved to Goodyear a couple years ago from California to be close to our facility out here and train with our guys. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made for my career.”
His work ethic and attitude helped the right-handed reliever have a fantastic rookie season with the Tribe in 2011. Pestano was 1-2 with a 2.32 ERA, striking out 84 hitters in his 62 innings of work. He worked most of the season, along with Tony Sipp, as the eighth inning set-up men. Pestano handled the right-handers; Sipp the left-handers.
However, Pestano wouldn’t have had the chance to prove himself as a reliable set-up man had it not been for some bad luck to one of his fellow Bullpen Mafia members.
“I was one of the last guys to make the team out of camp and if not for the injury to Joe Smith in spring training I might not have gotten that opportunity,” he said. “Around the end of May, I pitched myself into that role. I know the plan was always in place to see if I could handle it, but I don’t think it was supposed to happen as fast as it did.”
Pestano and the rest of the bullpen will have to adapt to change for the 2012 season. When pitching coach Tim Belcher resigned at season’s end, bullpen coach Scott Radinsky was anointed to the role. Several members of the bullpen were excited and hopeful Radinsky would get the job.
“Rad has been the heart of our bullpen for the past couple years. The experience he brings us down there cannot be measured. He has been one of the most influential people in my professional career so far,” Pestano said. “Our mindset down there stems from him, and he takes pride in our success as well. I was sorry to hear about Belch stepping down, but the front office could not have picked a better person to take his place.”
The mindset Radinsky has instilled in Pestano and the rest of the bullpen has created one of the toughest groups in the American League and one of the biggest strengths to the ballclub. As the season unfolded, the group embraced the pressure, thriving in their roles. “We take great pride in the game being handed to us,” Pestano said. “I don’t think we felt pressure at all. We want to be a force at the end of the game, and everyone in the pen wants the ball. We definitely push one another down there.”
The games and camaraderie of the bullpen remains light hearted mystery, however. “We have a few things we do down there that keep us entertained before we have to click it in around the fourth or fifth inning,“ Pestano said. “As for what we do, those are trade secrets and I’ve been sworn to secrecy. If I told you I would have to…well, you know.”
That camaraderie is carried throughout the entire team. When Pestano isn’t working out at the team’s facilities, he’s often chatting with fans and teammates on Twitter, playing Modern Warfare 3 or participating in the Indians fantasy football league. The league has been around for several years and is known to be pretty competitive.
“Jason Kipnis and I are sharing a team, and it has been an up and down year so far,” Pestano said. “We have a solid club, but it’s very unpredictable right now. We’re hovering around .500 and still have a shot at the playoffs. Last I saw I think Shelley Duncan had the best record, with Chad Durbin, Haf and Frank Herrmann close behind.”
While Pestano and his teammates have a good time off the field, their goals and expectations for 2012 are all business. Pestano doesn’t have any personal goals, but wants to avenge that final game defeat and more.
“Winning is the only thing on my mind,” he said. “From a personal standpoint all I want is to be dependable and for my teammates and our fans to have confidence that when I toe the rubber I’m going to get the job done.”
Photo: Getty Images