CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe their bullpen is best aligned when Vinnie Pestano is at the top of his game and locking down the eighth inning. Cleveland just needs the right-hander to find his prior form before handing him that role again.
In what Indians general manager Chris Antonetti described as "a really difficult decision," Cleveland optioned Pestano to Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday. Pestano has labored through a variety of issues this season, and the Indians believe getting consistent innings in the Minors can help the right-hander return to his previous place as one of the game's elite setup men.
"We tried in a lot of ways to work through it and help Vinnie get on a path to being the guy we're all accustomed to seeing," Antonetti said. "But, it was challenge to do that, and it got to the point where he wasn't getting regular work. We still feel like he's going to impact our team in the second half. We were left with, 'What's the best way to accomplish that?'"
The Indians determined that sending Pestano to the Minors for the time being was the best route.
In 34 games for Cleveland this season, the 28-year-old Pestano posted a 4.05 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 19 walks in 33 1/3 innings. He spent time on the disabled list earlier this season because of a right elbow issue, and saw diminished pitch velocity with both his fastball and slider. In July, Pestano worked just eight games with an average of more than three days between appearances.
Manager Terry Francona did not feel the sporadic usage was in Pestano's best interest.
"We had talked to Vinnie about getting him out of that eighth-inning role," Francona said, "and trying to get him in a position where we could help him get some confidence and get some consistency. And, that was becoming a little harder and harder to do. We've played so many one-run games and so many close games.
"I guess we thought the best way to get him back to being Vinnie was to send him to Triple-A."
Last season, Pestano established a single-season club record with 36 holds for the Indians. Across the 2011-12 seasons, the right-hander piled up 160 strikeouts to go along with a 2.45 ERA in 132 innings for Cleveland. Asked why Pestano has regressed this season, Francona cited the pitcher's work load as one possible explanation.
"With success, comes a lot of innings," Francona said. "I'm not blaming anybody. I've done the same thing. The guys that are pitching well, you run them out there. But, sometimes you get to a point where when you've thrown that much, sometimes you have to alter your throwing program or, as you mature into your career, make some changes."
Francona added that there has been no indication that Pestano's elbow injury remains an issue.
"He says he feels real good," Francona said. "He's not getting any treatment out of the ordinary or anything like that. He's not complaining of anything."