CLEVELAND -- This is the first year that Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway has been tasked with leading and shaping a Major League staff.
Manager Terry Francona is aware of that fact, but said Callaway resembles a much more seasoned instructor.
Asked to talk about the things Callaway does well in working with pitchers, Francona responded, "How much time do you have?"
"Mickey did a great job in the interview, but then more importantly after the interview, all the things that he said, he has completely lived up to," Francona said. "And it's been exciting for me to watch. I'm proud of him."
The manager and the pitching coach didn't have a connection before Francona took over in Cleveland. Callaway has coached at various levels of the Indians' farm system over the previous three seasons. Last year, he was the club's Minor League pitching coordinator.
"I actually didn't know him," Francona said. "He's very well thought of in the organization. There are some people I know out of the organization that knew him that gave him very high marks."
Francona is certainly pleased with the hire. Callaway's rotation, which was supposed to be an area of vulnerability for the Indians, has helped the club into a first-place tie atop the American League Central entering Friday.
The staff ace, Justin Masterson, is 6-2 with a 3.14 ERA over nine starts, a year after he lost 15 games. Zach McAllister, in his first season as a full-time rotation member, is 3-3 with a 2.68 ERA across seven outings.
And then there are the reclamation projects. Three years removed from a 19-win season, Ubaldo Jimenez has seen tough times in Cleveland but been strong in his last four appearances, going 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA. Scott Kazmir, who hasn't been a rotation regular since 2010, is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in his last four starts.
Dating back to the second game of an April 28 doubleheader in Kansas City, the rotation has 12 wins and a 3.17 ERA.
"Our starting pitching has kind of got the kinks out now," Tribe slugger Mark Reynolds said. "They're throwing great for us."
Pestano activated, feels like part of Tribe again
CLEVELAND -- Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano referred to his recent stint on the disabled list as the "longest 10 days of my career."
Pestano was back at Progressive Field on Friday after the Tribe activated him from the 15-day DL. The righty was placed on the disabled list on May 7, retroactive to May 1, with right elbow tendinitis.
"I'm symptom free," Pestano said. "It was brutal watching these guys on TV. It's tough. You kind of almost feel forgotten a little bit when you're not a part of the team."
Pestano takes the spot of left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone, who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday.
Pestano last pitched for the Indians on April 28. In eight games this season, he's compiled a 2.25 ERA and struck out eight while walking four. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Pestano would move right back into his eighth-inning role.
"If there's any rust, we'll let him shake it off," Francona said. "You could throw him in a different inning. His effort level is going to be the same. And he's been doing this long enough now, we'll just throw him right back in."
On Wednesday, Pestano notched a strikeout in a scoreless inning for Class A Lake County.
He was all smiles in his return to Cleveland.
"When you're not contributing to the team, you kind of don't feel like you're doing much for the team," Pestano said. "It'll be nice to go back out there and get outs for us."
Kipnis finding success with shorter swing
CLEVELAND -- A shorter swing has helped Jason Kipnis dig himself out of his early-season slump. Recently, the Indians second baseman has not only been one of the most potent bats in Cleveland's lineup, but also one of the top hitters in baseball.
Kipnis has been an extra-base hit machine of late, entering Friday's game with the Mariners with a dozen such hits over his past 13 games, dating back to May 3. The second baseman's 12 extra-base hits were the most for any hitter in the Major Leagues over that span.
"I started squaring up the ball more," Kipnis said. "When you put the ball in play a lot more and start squaring it up, a lot more things happen. I started driving it to the gaps and down the lines and, when that happens, it leads to extra-base hits when you come out of the box fast."
In Wednesday's road win over the Phillies, Kipnis went 3-for-4 with one home run, two doubles, three RBIs and one walk. In the process, he became the first Indians second baseman to have at least three extra-base hits, three RBIs and a walk in a game since Joe Gordon accomplished the feat in 1949.
Over his past 13 games heading into Friday's action, Kipnis had hit .303 (16-for-53) with a .356 on-base percentage, a .755 slugging percentage and a 1.111 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His slugging percentage was the third-highest mark in the Majors in that stretch, and his 40 total bases ranked second in baseball (Texas' Mitch Moreland had 43, dating back to May 3).
During that time period, Kipnis compiled five homers, five doubles, two triples, two stolen bases, 16 RBIs and 11 runs scored. It has been a drastic turnaround for Kipnis, who posted a .189/.265/.270/.535 slash line over his first 18 games, during which he had one home run, three doubles and four RBIs.
"We shortened the swing. We cleaned up the swing," Kipnis said. "That's all. Pretty much the big adjustment that we made was just trying to get the whip action back in it and just short to the ball. So, instead of fouling off pitches that I usually put in play, I'm driving it, and the extra bases are coming."
On Friday, Kipnis continued his recent trend, launching a three-run, walk-off home run in the 10th inning to hand the Indians a 6-3 win against the Mariners.
• Reynolds was in the starting lineup on Friday after experiencing some discomfort in his left elbow during the fifth inning of Wednesday's game against the Phillies. Reynolds hurt his arm while swinging, but reported no lingering issues later in the game or during Thursday's off-day.
"He was fine," Francona said. "He hyperextended it a little bit, and he got a little numbness in his fingers, but once it went away he was fine. I think the day off was good for everybody, but he would've been fine anyway."
• Indians right-hander Brett Myers, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow issue, logged three innings (33 pitches) in his first Minor League rehab appearance on Friday with Double-A Akron. The righty allowed no runs on one hit with one walk. Francona indicated that Myers would make two or three rehab starts before potentially being cleared to rejoin Cleveland's rotation.
• The Indians had a well-deserved off-day on Thursday after grinding through a stretch of 14 games (10-4 record) in 13 days and 20 games (14-6) in 19 days. Beginning with Friday's tilt with the Mariners, the Tribe is slated to embark on a run of 20 games in a row with the next off-day falling on June 6.
• Heading into Friday's action, the Indians ranked fifth in the American League with a .278 average with runners in scoring position and second in the Majors with a .309 mark with RISP and two outs. Cleveland's 21 extra-base hits with RISP and two outs ranked first in the Majors.
Quote to note
"He reminds me of a veteran, good, Major League pitching coach, with the way he goes about his business and the way he interacts with pitchers. His presence. His preparation. I'm thrilled with what he has done and what he is doing and what he will continue to do."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on first-year pitching coach Mickey Callaway
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.