GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians opened their Cactus League schedule with a tilt against the Reds on Wednesday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark. About a half-mile down the road from the stadium, Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano had a different kind of debut.
On one of Cleveland's practice fields, Pestano faced a group of Minor League hitters in his first live batting practice session of Spring Training. After a trying 2013 campaign, the right-hander has taken a slow approach in the opening weeks of camp, but he is beginning to feel like himself again.
"I feel comfortable on the mound finally. That's probably the biggest thing," Pestano said. "Last year, I was uncomfortable for the majority of the season."
A fixture in Cleveland's bullpen as a setup man over during the 2011-12 seasons, Pestano is now attempting to win a job within the relief corps. The right-hander was a virtual lock for a spot on the roster in previous springs, but his rocky showing last summer -- one hindered by a right elbow injury -- has him now jockeying for position among the many arms in camp.
Asked where Pestano stood in terms of the bullpen competition, Indians manager Terry Francona indicated that more time is needed to see how the pitcher progresses.
"That's an interesting one," Francona said. "I think you actually kind of treat everybody a little bit different. Not as far as respect goes or things like that, but as far as where they are in their career. Vinnie is probably a unique case in our camp. He's a guy that two years ago locked down the eighth inning.
"He got to a point last year where we felt we had to send him to Triple-A and it was frustrating for everybody. We know Vinnie can do it, but we do have to see it. We'd love for him to do it. That's probably the best I can give you."
Pestano, 29, turned in a career-worst 4.08 ERA in 37 appearances last season for the Indians. The righty had an ERA of 2.32 in 2011 and 2.57 in 2012. Considering how last season went, Pestano initiated his offseason throwing program a couple of weeks later than he had done in previous winters.
"It was good. It felt good to see some hitters," Pestano said of his latest mound session. "I'm just playing a little bit of catchup right now. I'll miss one or two games early. For a reliever in spring, once you get throwing every other day, you can get your 10 or 12 innings pretty quick."