Pestano mowing down batters at historic rate

Pestano mowing down batters at historic rate

Pestano mowing down batters at historic rate
BOSTON -- Pitchers will often claim that they are not trying for a strikeout. Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano is not cut from that cloth. When the right-hander toes the rubber, there are plenty of times when a strikeout is his goal.

"I study the hitters and I study what they strike out on against right-handed pitchers," Pestano said. "So I am trying to strike them out. I'm trying to look for tendencies that would help me when I'm out there to strike guys out."

This season, Pestano has succeeded in historic fashion.

When Pestano struck out Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the eighth inning of Thursday's 8-3 win, it gave him at least one strikeout in each of his first 16 appearances this season. That represents the longest such streak by a Cleveland reliever to start a season, dating back to 1918. The previous mark of 15 games was set by Doug Jones in 1987.

Dating back to last season, Pestano has at least one strikeout in 18 consecutive outings, which is the longest run by an Indians reliever since Paul Shuey's run of 21 straight games with at least one strikeout from Aug. 20, 1999 to April 10, 2000. That strikeout streak by Shuey represents the longest such run for a Tribe reliever since 1918.

"There's a lot that goes into it," Pestano said about the art of striking hitters out. "It's just about getting ahead, and then once you're ahead, find ways to put them away."

Through 16 appearances this season, the 27-year-old Pestano has posted a 1.93 ERA with 20 strikeouts against five walks over 14 innings. That follows an impressive rookie showing in 2011, when the right-hander had a 2.32 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 24 walks in 62 innings of work.

Pestano has not always been a strikeout pitcher, though. After a bout with right elbow soreness, the reliever altered his arm angle after the 2009 season, moving to more of a three-quarter slot after throwing sidearm. One result was increased velocity, and his strikeout rate soared to 11.6 per nine innings in the Minors in 2010 after averaging 8.6 from '07-09.

"The less opportunity they have to put a ball in play, the better off I am," Pestano said. "I really used to not try to go out there and do that, but over the past few years, ever since the mechanical change in my delivery, I got a couple miles of [velocity], a little deception, and I've become a strikeout pitcher."