CLEVELAND — A minor move led to a major surprise with the Indians on Tuesday night.
Following another come-from-behind win that featured a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians sent relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus.
This followed the acquisition earlier of left-handed relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski — who had a 7.84 ERA for St. Louis this season and who spent a fair part of the season in Triple-A.
Presumably the two moves are related, though GM Chris Antonetti said before the game the team was trying to work out its roster and even hinted another trade could take place, saying: “There’s a lot that can happen over the next 24 hours.”
Which would be the time leading up to the 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline for non-waiver trades. Rzepcynski is a left-hand specialist, and the Indians needed another guy to get lefties out with Rich Hill being the only left-hander in the bullpen.
The Indians did not confirm the move with Pestano, but a source said he had not been traded and had been sent to Columbus.
Pestano took greetings from several teammates at his locker, including Jason Giambi and Chris Perez. He was clearly emotional as he packed a bag, and referred questions to Antonetti and manager Terry Francona.
Later in the evening, he posted on Twitter: “Appreciate all the love Tribe fans. See you soon. #illbeback #couldntresist.”
Though clearly tough to take, the move gives Pestano a chance to pitch more and to find himself. It’s very possible the Indians felt he could not get the innings he needed in Cleveland and (barring another trade) he will be back with the Indians before the season ends.
Pestano struggled early and spent time on the disabled list. After a game against Detroit when he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning on July 7, Francona said he would take Pestano out of the eighth-inning setup role he held entering this season.
Since that day, Pestano has just five relief appearances, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Zero runs indicates he was finding himself, but five appearances in 23 days would not help him much.
Cody Allen, too, has pitched extremely well, going 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA as he has progressed to a late-inning role with Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez.
Pestano for the season was 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA, and his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was 50 percent higher than it had been the previous two seasons.
While the Indians were making that move, word broke late Tuesday that the Tigers were involved in a three-team trade that sent starting pitcher Jake Peavy from Chicago to Boston and 23-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers. Detroit evidently is well aware that Jhonny Peralta will be suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis affair, and it needs a shortstop.
It found one who will be around a while who is hitting .330 in 62 games and who plays excellent defensively.
The Indians, meanwhile, won their sixth game in a row to match a season high and moved to 10 games over .500 for the first time since June 4, 2011.
They enjoyed the win, clearly.
But after the game they spent a lot of time supporting and encouraging Pestano, a very much liked and popular teammate.