Cleveland addressed what it viewed as its biggest need — left-handed relief pitching — acquiring Marc Rzepczysnki in a trade with St. Louis on Tuesday, but there was no follow-up deal.
“I think we were empowered going into the deadline by feeling good about the group of players we had,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “The starting rotation has done a very good job over the course of the last month and we feel like we have some depth there. The group of position players we have for the balance of the year has been pretty productive. It’s a versatile group. We’re capable of scoring runs in a variety of ways. We play good defense and we have some roster flexibility.
“We went into the deadline in a pretty good position and we were able to address one of our primary needs to improve our options from the left side of the bullpen, and that’s the move we ended up making.”
In the time leading up to the deadline, Cleveland reportedly showed interest in starting pitchers Matt Garza and Bud Norris and lefty relievers Javier Lopez and Josh Outman.
“There were a lot of bad deals we could have made,” Antonetti said. “We chose not to make bad deals.”
Manager Terry Francona supported the GM and his decision to keep the club intact.
“I love the group we play with every night,” Francona said. “I’m completely comfortable with the team we’ve got. There are no guarantees, but I like this group.”
The Indians could still make a trade before the regular season ends, with the August waiver period approaching.
“It’s another opportunity,” Antonetti said. “If there’s a right deal in August, we’ll look to pursue it.”
So long, Vinnie
The Indians officially added Rzepczynski to the 25-man roster, optioning right-hander Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland was trying to get the struggling reliever back on track, but the opportunities were limited.
“I guess we thought the best way to get him back to being Vinnie was to send him to Triple-A,” Francona said. “I’m not saying it was the funnest move for Vinnie. Actually, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for us, but we need to get that guy back, and this is probably the best way to do it.”
It was a rapid downfall for Pestano, who began the season as a fixture at the back end of the bullpen, but has struggled for much of the year — 1-2, 4.05 ERA in 34 games. He spent a brief stint on the disabled list with elbow issues, but Francona said the pitcher is healthy.
“With success comes a lot of innings,” Francona said of Pestano, who logged 132 innings over the past two seasons. “Sometimes you get to the point when you’re throwing that much, you have to alter your throwing program as you mature in your career and make some changes, and I think he’s probably at the point now where he’s going to have to make some changes that he didn’t have to before.
“He’s not quite throwing as hard as he was. He’s kind of stuck in the middle right now, and at the major league level, especially pitching late in the game, it’s hard to make those adjustments.”
Ironically enough, Rzepczysnki and Pestano played little league baseball together and have been friends since before high school.
The new guy
Rzepczysnki owns a 3.07 ERA in 32 games for Triple-A Memphis this season, but he has struggled in the majors, posting a 7.84 ERA in 11 games for the Cardinals, who sent him down twice before he was traded.
“He’s not having the best year but his stuff’s not down,” Francona said. “Sometimes, in bullpen roles, you hit on a guy. I think it’s a good move for the organization. We get a left-hander who’s done it before.”
“Pitch selection was a big thing for me,” Rzepczysnki said of his big league struggles. “I think sometimes I got happy with throwing fastballs and I don’t throw 98 (mph). I need to mix it up a lot and I wasn’t doing that for the most part. Now, here, starting fresh, I’m going to try to pitch my game and see what happens. I’m ready for a fresh start and to help this team win.”
Rzepczysnki joins Rich Hill as a situational lefty in the bullpen.
The Indians are optimistic that right-hander Josh Tomlin will pitch on the big league level before the season is complete. Tomlin has made a pair of appearances in the Arizona League and is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Lake County today.
“If he doesn’t have any setbacks, it’s a pretty strong likelihood that he can contribute to the end of August or early September,” Antonetti said.
Wednesday’s game was the first of two dates that fans could attend as part of the Indians’ ticket exchange program, stemming from the May 31 rain-delayed game against Tampa Bay that ended at 3 a.m. The other opportunity is Sept. 6 vs. the Mets. … The STO telecasts Monday (8.42) and Tuesday (8.16) against Chicago joined the home opener against the Yankees (8.57) on April 8 and July 8 against Detroit as the highest television ratings of the season. … Today, 12:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM. Masterson (12-7, 3.42) vs. Sale (6-10, 2.69).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.