Two seasons ago they were the strength of the Cleveland Indians, a unit named the “Bullpen Mafia,” relievers that closed out games with the best of them in all of baseball. Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez were the three players at the forefront of the unit. All three were very good to the point of dominating games and helping the Tribe secure wins.
Then, as good as the unit was in 2012, last season was a totally different story. Smith was again very good, and he cashed in this offseason with a deal to the Los Angeles Angels. As for Perez, he was a train wreck that after an arrest June he was never the same, eventually being asked to be taken from the closer’s role.
Pestano’s collapse was equally as disturbing, as he went from a dominant hold reliever to one who just could not find his groove. The collapse was complete when he was sent to the minor leagues after the team acquired Marc Rzepczynski from the St.Louis Cardinals on July 30.
He went through it all in 2013, and now after being told he’s got a roster spot back in the Indians pen, he’s ready to put last season all behind him. “I want to get back to form,” Pestano told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. ”I want to get back to being the same kind of pitcher I was in 2011 and 2012. I want to be dependable and I want to be counted on. Those are two things I care a lot about.”
Make no mistake about it; the Indians need Pestano to step up and be a lot more like he was in 2011 and 2012 when he threw in 137 games and his ERA was under three in each of those seasons as he also complied 59 holds for Perez or another member of the pen. He will also enter 2014 with a chip on his shoulder with plenty to prove after losing an arbitration case in January. He was asking for $1.45 million, but instead after losing the case will take home $975,000.
“Last year was a rough year for me. I lived it. I spent every day with it. So nothing that was said in that room wasn’t something I’d hadn’t already said to myself,” Pestano said. If Pestano can get back to form, he will be a cog in a pen that will include a new closer in John Axford, along with solid relievers like Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Rzepczynski and Josh Outman.
The Indians have placed their faith in Pestano that he will shine once again like he did in 2011 and 2012. It was a tough last season for the Newport Beach, Calif. native, but he says it’s all behind him.
Now is his time to go out and prove it once again.