BOSTON -- Nick Hagadone had always envisioned his big league debut taking place in Fenway Park. That all changed when the Red Sox packaged him in a trade and shipped him off to the Indians three seasons ago.
On Thursday night, Hagadone finally received his chance to pitch in Fenway, and he did so no longer as a pitching prospect. These days, Hagadone is an emerging talent in Cleveland's bullpen, and he showed Boston what it gave away by turning in a clean ninth inning to seal an 8-3 victory for Cleveland.
"It was awesome," Hagadone said on Friday. "When I got drafted, I assumed I was going to make my debut here. So to be able to get to finally pitch here, it was pretty cool."
The Red Sox selected Hagadone with the 55th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and he did have the chance to head to Fenway Park that August for a game with Class A Lowell. Since he was not starting that day, though, Hagadone was asked to sit in the stands to chart pitches.
"I was kind of bitter about it," Hagadone said. "I definitely wanted to at least be in the dugout."
The Sox traded him to the Indians on July 31, 2009, along with Justin Masterson and Bryan Price, in the deal that brought Victor Martinez to Beantown. In the years since the swap, the 26-year-old Hagadone made the switch from starting to relieving and has performed well for the Tribe.
Through nine appearances out of the bullpen this season, Hagadone has posted a 0.87 ERA with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 10 1/3 innings. Including Spring Training and a stint with Triple-A Columbus, the lefty has pieced together a 1.27 ERA with 24 strikeouts against six walks in 28 1/3 innings so far this year.
"His command, I would say that the command has been a bit surprising," manager Manny Acta said. "We're not surprised by the velocity or the breaking ball. We knew those were there. The command of his pitches, yeah, it has come quicker than we anticipated."
Pestano mowing down batters at historic rate
BOSTON -- Pitchers will often claim that they are not trying for a strikeout. Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano is not cut from that cloth. When the right-hander toes the rubber, there are plenty of times when a strikeout is his goal.
"I study the hitters and I study what they strike out on against right-handed pitchers," Pestano said. "So I am trying to strike them out. I'm trying to look for tendencies that would help me when I'm out there to strike guys out."
This season, Pestano has succeeded in historic fashion.
When Pestano struck out Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the eighth inning of Thursday's 8-3 win, it gave him at least one strikeout in each of his first 16 appearances this season. That represents the longest such streak by a Cleveland reliever to start a season, dating back to 1918. The previous mark of 15 games was set by Doug Jones in 1987.
Dating back to last season, Pestano has at least one strikeout in 18 consecutive outings, which is the longest run by an Indians reliever since Paul Shuey's run of 21 straight games with at least one strikeout from Aug. 20, 1999 to April 10, 2000. That strikeout streak by Shuey represents the longest such run for a Tribe reliever since 1918.
"There's a lot that goes into it," Pestano said about the art of striking hitters out. "It's just about getting ahead, and then once you're ahead, find ways to put them away."
Through 16 appearances this season, the 27-year-old Pestano has posted a 1.93 ERA with 20 strikeouts against five walks over 14 innings. That follows an impressive rookie showing in 2011, when the right-hander had a 2.32 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 24 walks in 62 innings of work.
Pestano has not always been a strikeout pitcher, though. After a bout with right elbow soreness, the reliever altered his arm angle after the 2009 season, moving to more of a three-quarter slot after throwing sidearm. One result was increased velocity, and his strikeout rate soared to 11.6 per nine innings in the Minors in 2010 after averaging 8.6 from '07-09.
"The less opportunity they have to put a ball in play, the better off I am," Pestano said. "I really used to not try to go out there and do that, but over the past few years, ever since the mechanical change in my delivery, I got a couple miles of [velocity], a little deception, and I've become a strikeout pitcher."
Kipnis enjoys playing at historic Fenway Park
BOSTON -- You will not hear Jason Kipnis complain about playing in Fenway Park. The century-old stadium has suited the second baseman just fine.
"I don't know if I just see the ball well here or what," Kipnis said, "but I definitely enjoy playing here."
During Thursday's 8-3 win over the Red Sox, Kipnis went 2-for-5 with a home run and two runs scored. His third-inning blast off Josh Beckett marked the fourth homer Kipnis has launched in five career games in Boston's beloved ballpark.
Overall, Kipnis headed into Friday's contest hitting .381 (8-for-21) with four home runs, one double, four RBIs and seven runs scored in his brief taste of the Back Bay. Last season, Kipnis' first four career home runs came in four consecutive games from July 31-Aug. 3. The final three in that stretch came in Boston.
Asked if Fenway Park fit Kipnis' swing, manager Manny Acta smiled.
"I think Kipnis' swing fits every ballpark in America," Acta said. "It started fitting all the way from [Arizona State] in college. He never played in this park when he was our Minor League Player of the Year back-to-back years, so his swing fits pretty good everywhere."
On the season, the 25-year-old Kipnis has hit .270 with six home runs, three doubles, three triples, six stolen bases, 21 runs and 21 RBIs through 31 games.
Quote to note
"As soon as the umpire came out, looked at [pitching coach Scott Radinsky] and said, 'Hi, Mr. Nagy,' I knew I was in some weird kind of Twilight Zone that I had to just fight through."
-- Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, on his 41-pitch eighth inning on Thursday
Center fielder Michael Brantley went 4-for-5 in Thursday's win, matching a career high for hits in one game. His average as Cleveland's No. 7 hitter jumped to .281 (9-for-32) in the process. Manager Manny Acta moved Brantley out of the leadoff spot after left fielder Johnny Damon joined the team earlier this month.
With his win on Thursday, starter Derek Lowe (5-1) became the fifth pitcher in the American League to notch his fifth win. The others include Yankees lefty CC Sabathia (5-0), Rays righty James Shields (5-1), Rays lefty David Price (5-2) and Angels righty Jered Weaver (5-0). The 103 ground balls Lowe has induced are 10 more than any other pitcher in the Majors.
Third baseman Jack Hannahan went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs on Thursday, improving his average with runners in scoring position to .440 (11-for-25). That is the second-best qualifying figure in the Majors, trailing only Seattle's Kyle Seager (.500).