The Angels, figuring they can never have too much of a good thing, added more bullpen depth Thursday by acquiring triple-A reliever Vinnie Pestano from the Cleveland Indians for Class-A pitcher Michael Clevinger, a fourth-round pick in 2011.
Pestano, who will report to triple-A Salt Lake, was one of the American League’s better relievers in 2011, when he went 1-2 with a 2.32 earned-run average in 67 games for the Indians, striking out 76 in 62 innings, and in 2012, when he went 3-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 70 games, striking out 76 in 70 innings.
But the former Anaheim Canyon High School and Cal State Fullerton standout struggled with elbow injuries and inconsistency in 2013, when he split the season between Cleveland and triple-A Columbus.
Pestano, 29, is physically sound this season, but he has spent most of 2014 at triple-A, going 2-4 with a 1.78 ERA in 32 games. He went 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in 13 games over two stints with the Indians, opening the season in the big leagues and getting optioned to triple-A in April and again in July.
“He’s an interesting guy,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He has a really good arm. When he first came up, he had a lot of success, and he kind of struggled with some things the last couple of years. If he gets it back, there’s no doubt he fits into a major league bullpen, and certainly our bullpen.”
Pestano throws his fastball, which sits in the 93-mph range, with what Angels reliever Joe Smith, a former Cleveland teammate of Pestano, calls a “funky” 3/4-arm delivery adds deception to his motion and causes the pitch to cut instead of tail.
“His stuff was really good,” Smith said. “I don’t know if the league caught onto him a little bit maybe, but he’s not that far removed from [when he was effective], so it’s not like he’ll never get it back. You can very easily see him coming back.”
Both Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto said the trade, which was prompted by a waiver claim the Angels made on Pestano, was made for the present and future.
The right-hander can be optioned to the minor leagues without having to pass through waivers in 2015, and he will be under club control for three more years.
“He’s got his strikeout pitch back,” Dipoto said. “He appears to be throwing the ball real well. Our reports are very positive. When he’s right, his fastball is 92-93 mph, and the ball has extra hop through the zone. He has a slurve and a slider. They’re both very effective.
“For a lot of reasons, he’s a good fit for us. He adds to our depth. He’s an optionable 29-year-old who has had a lot of success.”
Clevinger, 23, went 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 18 starts for Class-A Inland Empire and Burlington. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder had 85 strikeouts and 32 walks in 79 1/3 innings.