Pestano Keeps Back End Of Bullpen Strong
Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we continue our Goodyear coverage by breaking down the players who the glue to the team if the Tribe is to make the playoffs.
By Craig Gifford
When Indians closer Chris Perez went down with an injury earlier this spring, the Tribe looked to Vinnie Pestano as its temporary closer. That’s high praise for a relief pitcher going into his second season at the Major League level, but praise well earned after an incredible 2011 rookie year.
Pestano entered last spring, with minimal expectations. The 27-year-old was with Cleveland for the final week of 2010 and pitched fairly well. However, that was seen as simply a possible late-season surge made by so many unknown, unaccomplished players over the years.
In 2011, Pestano wasted little time in showing that he was not only around to stay, but around to become one of the most important players in Cleveland bullpen and on the roster. Pestano followed a strong Cactus League campaign with a lights-out April and May. The Indians got off to their impressive 30-15 start last year, thanks largely to the Bullpen Mafia and Pestano was seen as one of the top guys in the relief corps by mid-May.
When Perez had to leave the team for brief stint last summer, it was Pestano who was handed the ball in the ninth inning. He earned the only two saves last year to not earned by Perez.
All told, Pestano’s numbers were a 2.32 ERA in 67 outings, 84 strike outs and just 24 walks. His strike outs per nine innings was a jaw-dropping 12.2. Pretty impressive for a guy not drafted until the 20th round in 2006. However, it lines up with his eye-opening minor league seasons of 2009 and 2010.
There is no question Pestano is a very important piece to the Indians’ hopes of contending for the postseason this year. They will need him to be the right-handed set up man he was last year. They may also need him to close if Perez feels the effects of his injury at some point in the season.
Pestano’s continued success could also be important in adding more pieces to the puzzle, like offensive fire power. There was talk in the offseason the Tribe could look to trade Perez or another top bullpen guy like Rafael Perez or Tony Sipp for a much-needed power bat. It didn’t happen, but Pestano’s presence makes another top-flight reliever expendable.
No matter what the case is, Pestano is arguably one of the most important players on the Tribe as he should be a fixture in the pen for years to come.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com
Be sure to vote for Did The Tribe Win Last Night in Cleveland Magazine’s Blog Bracket Challenge this week. Voting is open until 1 pm on Wednesday.