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Pestano pulled from eighth-inning relief role

CLEVELAND -- Manager Terry Francona believes that his team is best aligned when right-hander Vinnie Pestano is in charge of locking down the eighth inning.

In light of his recent struggles, though, Pestano has been pulled from regular eighth-inning duty, but Francona feels he'll regain that critical role soon enough.

"We'll try to set him up where he can have some success and let him start getting some confidence," Francona said, "because I really do think when he's in the eighth inning, pitching well, that's our best team. At the moment we probably need to do something different."

Prior to Monday's game against the Tigers, Francona noted that sidearmer Joe Smith -- typically responsible for the seventh inning -- will temporarily take over as the primary setup man for closer Chris Perez. Francona plans on finding spots to mix in Pestano with the hope of getting the reliever on a roll again.

Pestano, who set the Indians' single-season franchise record with 36 holds a year ago, dealt with discomfort in his right elbow earlier this season and has been inconsistent since returning to the bullpen in May. In 21 games since coming off the disabled list, he has an uncharacteristically high 5.66 ERA to go along with a .289 opponents' batting average.

Pestano, 28, surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning against Detroit on Sunday, giving him a 7.04 ERA over his past eight appearances. For the season he has a 4.71 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 28 2/3 innings.

Pestano has been working through some mechanical adjustments lately -- his arm angle and release point were off following his return from the DL -- but he was blunt on Sunday when discussing what he needs to do.

"I've just got to get back to attacking guys," Pestano said. "Quit pitching scared and quit trying to miss bats. Just go out there and throw the ball and let what's going to happen, happen. Right now it seems like when I'm throwing the ball, I'm trying to make the outcome happen instead of just going out there and pounding the strike zone."

Across the 2011-12 seasons, Pestano posted a 2.45 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 132 innings for the Indians. That is the kind of pitcher Francona hopes to have back in the eighth inning in the near future.

"We've seen glimpses of the old Vinnie, but there's been some inconsistencies," Francona said. "We're going to try to pitch him in games where maybe we think it sets up a little better for him. We'll try to get that confidence rolling, because I think that's part of it.

"And then, once he gets back on a roll, then we'll get him back where it's a designated role."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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