BOSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona admitted to having some anxiety about his return to Boston this weekend. After three games and a handful of ovations from the Fenway Park faithful, Francona allowed himself to reminisce a bit on Sunday morning.
"This is a really special place," said Francona, who managed the Red Sox from 2004-11. "They do things here like no other place -- that's probably the only way I can say it. And I mean that in a complimentary way. Baseball is so important to people here. I think it was Mike Barnicle that said baseball is not a religion, but the Red Sox are.
"So when you're the manager here, it creates a headache sometimes. You can't have all that passion and interest without having a couple headaches. But that doesn't mean it's not a [heck] of a place."
Francona guided Boston to 744 regular-season victories, five postseason appearances and World Series triumphs in 2004 and '07.
During the first game of this series in Boston, the Red Sox showed a tribute video after the first inning highlighting Francona's time with the club. Cleveland's manager was treated to a standing ovation and chants of "Tito! Tito!" On Saturday, fans behind the visitors' dugout rose to their feet, clapping and cheering Francona as he walked off the field following a pitching change.
While Francona said hearing the cheers following the mound visit struck him as weird, and even a touch embarrassing, the warm reception he has received has meant a lot.
"I caught probably more than my fair share of flak when I was up here, because you're the manager," Francona said. "That comes with the territory. But also you see how they've reacted now. Once you're one of them, I think you're kind of maybe always one of them.
"I think they realize I caught a break. I'm just a normal guy that likes baseball -- loves baseball -- and got a good team, and tried not to screw it up. I was really lucky. I caught a big break. It's true. I worked hard, but I caught a big break. I came to a team that was ready to win and we did.
"We did a lot of good things. Then, it's time to move on and I feel like I caught another break. I love being here. So it's helped me look back on Boston maybe a little fonder, now that I'm here. I'm glad."
Francona says struggling Pestano's elbow is fine
BOSTON -- If there were any health concerns about setup man Vinnie Pestano, Indians manager Terry Francona would not use the reliever in a game. Francona's only concern right now is getting Pestano back to his usual comfort level on the mound.
During Saturday's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox, Pestano surrendered four runs on four hits in the eighth inning for the worst outing of his career. The right-hander showed diminished velocity and command issues, but Francona said it was not the result of lingering discomfort in Pestano's recently injured elbow
"It'll be fine," Francona said on Sunday. "There's not any medical issues. We already got through that. Now, we've just got to get him back to being Vinnie."
Pestano was shelved on the 15-day disabled list due to right elbow tendinitis May 6-17 (retroactive to May 1), but the pitcher said Saturday that his arm feels fine. During his 31-pitch appearance against the Red Sox, Pestano was hitting around 87-90 mph with his fastball, which typically sits at 92-93.
Pestano said two weeks without throwing while sidelined on the DL are likely to blame.
"I definitely agree," Francona said. "It's like in Spring Training. When guys start throwing, they have to build up arm speed. That's what he's doing now."
Francona emphasized that he was not worried about Pestano's ability to bounce back. Last season, the right-hander set a single-season franchise record with 36 holds. Over the 2011-12 campaigns, Pestano posted a 2.45 ERA and piled up 160 strikeouts against 48 walks in 137 games.
Right now, Pestano's season ERA through 12 appearances is 5.25, which is the highest it has been at any point in his career.
"I told Vinnie, and I might've even said it to you guys," Francona said, "when he comes back [from the DL], there might be a little rust. You've got to shake it off. Like a hitter with a track record, this is a pitcher with a pretty [darn] impressive track record, the way he competes, the way he cares. So I wouldn't want to run away from him. I just want to help him."
Aviles credits Francona with helping him prepare
BOSTON -- The list of players who have been traded for a manager is a short one. Indians utility man Mike Aviles takes pride in the fact that he was involved in the deal that brought manager John Farrell to the Red Sox, because he understands how badly Boston wanted to pry Farrell away from Toronto.
"I take it more as an honor," Aviles said. "I know how much the Red Sox valued John Farrell and what he brought to the table. In order for them to get the manager that they wanted, [they traded me]. I take it as an honor. Other people might take it another way, but that's how I take it."
The trade took place on Oct. 21, 2012, sending Aviles temporarily to the Blue Jays. As fate would have it, Aviles was later flipped -- along with catcher Yan Gomes -- to the Indians in the Nov. 3 swap that shipped reliever Esmil Rogers north of the border. Now, Aviles once again plays for manager Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox from 2004-11.
Aviles said that playing for Francona in Boston, and then assuming an everyday role as a shortstop last season, helped prepare him for his super utility role in Cleveland this year.
"Absolutely," Aviles said. "The thing with Tito [Francona] is he always lets me know when I'm going to play. He always gives me the opportunity to be prepared for what I need to do. And I think the little bit that I learned over there, and to bring it over here and help the team, it's like everybody understands that the only way we're going to win is going to be together.
"We all have to be on the same page. It starts with Tito. He's on one page and we're all going to be on the same page. That's the biggest thing. You need everybody in this locker room, and then some, to all be on the same page to try to win ballgames."
Entering Sunday, Aviles has hit .276 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 32 games for the Indians.
Quote to note
"Our bullpen, we're so blessed. We had a tough game [Saturday] in the bullpen, but we've got a good bullpen. And we have so many different ways to go that, on days where maybe somebody is not available, I don't ever feel handcuffed. That's an unbelievable feeling."
--Indians manager Terry Francona
• Entering Sunday's game against the Red Sox, Indians left fielder Michael Brantley was hitting .316, which was the 12th-highest batting average in the American League. Dating back to April 20, Brantley had a .346 (44-for-127) average with 22 RBIs in 30 games. He had reached base via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in 39 of his 45 games played.
"He's got a really pretty swing," Francona said. "He's got a swing that doesn't need a lot of maintenance. By that, I mean there's not a lot of moving parts. As you get more at-bats and more experience and know the league, it wouldn't shock me if he hits for more power."
• Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was in the starting lineup for Sunday's game in Boston, but Francona gave him a day off the field. Cabrera served as the designated hitter and Mike Aviles was in the lineup at short. Given Cabrera's history of fading in the second half (over the past two seasons, he has hit .247 in the second half compared to .290 in the first half), Francona is looking for spots to give Cabrera some rest.
"I thought it'd be good for him," Francona said. "I know in the past they've talked about him playing himself into he ground. I don't want that to happen. He's playing really good baseball. He's being really aggressive on the bases and everything."
• The Indians' bullpen, which had a 3.63 ERA going into Sunday's game, has endured a rough week. Dating back to May 18, Cleveland's relief corps has posted a 6.59 ERA (13th in the AL in that span), allowing 20 runs on 30 hits in 27 1/3 innings.
• Right-hander Brett Myers, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 20, is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Monday. Myers went 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA in four outings before being shut down with a right elbow injury.