October 23, 2014

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Tribe: Joe Smith replaces Vinnie Pestano

CLEVELAND — Vinnie Pestano’s season on the brink continued in earnest Monday.

Prior to the series finale with Detroit, manager Terry Francona announced that Pestano, one of the American League’s top setup men for the past two seasons, would no longer hold down the eighth-inning role.

Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano during a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Cleveland. Cleveland won 8-7. (AP PHOTO)

Right-hander Joe Smith will replace Pestano, who has struggled mightily since leaving the disabled list May 17.

“Since he’s come back from the down time with his arm, we’ve seen some glimpses of the old Vinnie, but there’s been some inconsistencies,” Francona said. “We’re going to try to pitch him in games where we think it sets up a little better for him and try to get that confidence rolling, because I think that’s part of it.

“Once he gets back on a roll, we’ll get him back in a designated role. I really do think when he’s in the eighth inning, that’s our best team. At the moment, we felt we needed to do something with him.”

Pestano, who allowed a game-tying three-run homer to Torii Hunter on Sunday, had appeared in 29 games through Sunday, posting a 1-2 record and 4.71 ERA.

Smith entered Monday with a 4-0 record and 2.73 ERA in 36 games.

Comeback Zach

Zach McAllister (right middle finger sprain) threw a three-inning simulated game at Progressive Field on Monday. He faced a select group of Class A Lake County hitters.

The right-hander, who the Indians say sustained the injury while gripping his curveball, has yet to throw breaking pitches from the mound, but has thrown them on flat ground.

“The next step will depend on how he bounces back,” Francona said. “It all depends on symptoms. That’s the last thing to come in his progression. It’s all on how he feels. One thing we’re not going to do, we’re not going to rush Zach.”

Francona said McAllister would throw breaking pitches on flat ground today and be re-evaluated from there.

It is still a possibility that McAllister (4-5, 3.43 ERA) begins a minor league rehab assignment shortly after the All-Star break. He has been sidelined since June 8.

“It’s a process,” McAllister said. “I’m not going to go out there and pitch with something I’m not comfortable with or have an injury that could lead to something bigger.”

• Francona said Brett Myers (right elbow inflammation) is feeling better after having his second minor league rehab stint scrapped. The right-hander is expected to begin another rehab assignment soon in preparation for relief work.

• Lou Marson (right shoulder strain) has been sidelined since April 25, but said Monday that he expects to play again before the season is complete. He was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL on Sunday.

Who’s starting?

The Indians have yet to name a starter for Thursday’s series finale with Toronto. The strongest candidates are Triple-A Columbus right-handers Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar.

The outing was supposed to go to Carlos Carrasco but he was sent down after another disappointing start Saturday.

“He’s shown glimpses,” Francona said of Carrasco, who is 0-4 with a 9.01 ERA in six starts for Cleveland this year. “The further he gets away from the (Tommy John) surgery (last year) and the more he pitches, we are going to at some point have a really good pitcher. It’s just been a little inconsistent up to this point.

“We could have left him here to pitch. He’s going to survive because of his stuff, but we want him to be really good.”

Smooth operator

Though it’s his offense that has been on display as of late, left fielder Michael Brantley has been at the top of his game all year, defensively.

Brantley entered Monday night on a 178-game errorless streak, which is the second-longest in club history behind Rocky Colavito’s 212-game streak from 1959-66.

Offensively, Brantley entered Monday hitting .280 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs in 84 games, and was batting .367 (22-for-60) with runners in scoring position (sixth in the majors).

Next up

The Indians continue the 10-game homestand prior to the All-Star break with a three-game series against Toronto that begins tonight at 7:05.

Ublado Jimenez (6-4, 4.67 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing RHP Josh Johnson (1-3, 4.89), while Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.78) squares off against RHP and former Indian Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.84) on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.).

While the Indians have yet to name a starter for Thursday (12:05 p.m), the Blue Jays will go with LHP Mark Buehrle (5-5, 4.50).

Roundin’ third

For the second straight season, Jason Kipnis has recorded at least 10 homers and 20 stolen bases prior to the All-Star break. He is one of five Cleveland players to have accomplished as much, joining Bobby Bonds (1979), Kenny Lofton (1994), Roberto Alomar (1999) and Grady Sizemore (2007-08). … It was “Omar Vizquel Bobblehead Night.” The 11-time Gold Glove shortstop — eight with Indians — threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.