CLEVELAND -- The Indians will surely explore the trade market for starting pitching help in the coming weeks, but they also know they have a big right-hander working his way back into the rotation picture.
On Monday, Zach McAllister threw three innings off a mound in a simulated game at Progressive Field, working through 50 pitches against a handful of hitters from low Class A Lake County. He felt good during the brief session and might be sent on a Minor League rehab assignment for the next step in his comeback from a sprained right middle finger.
"I was really happy with it," McAllister, 25, said of the simulated game. "Everything came out the way I wanted it to, and it was nice to be able to see some hitters again."
McAllister took breaks between innings to simulate a game environment, and mixed in fielding drills between the second and third frames. He threw only fastballs, changeups, cutters and splitters, staying away from the breaking ball, which poses the most problems for his finger.
Manager Terry Francona said that adding the breaking ball will be one of the final steps of McAllister's program.
"It all depends on symptoms," Francona said. "That's the last thing that's going to come in this progression. And it's all on how he feels."
For the season, McAllister is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 45 and walking 22 across 65 2/3 innings. He went 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in his last two starts before landing on the 15-day disabled list on June 8. He went 4-3 with a 2.89 ERA in the nine previous outings.
Francona is impressed with the way McAllister has handled his time on the sidelines.
"I would actually say [he's been] unbelievably outstanding," he said. "That's probably not grammatically correct, but it's how I feel. He is like a sponge anyway, and he's out there for every inning of every game. He watches everything. He has worked as hard as humanly possible."
Pestano pulled from eighth-inning relief role
CLEVELAND -- Manager Terry Francona believes that his team is best aligned when right-hander Vinnie Pestano is in charge of locking down the eighth inning.
In light of his recent struggles, though, Pestano has been pulled from regular eighth-inning duty, but Francona feels he'll regain that critical role soon enough.
"We'll try to set him up where he can have some success and let him start getting some confidence," Francona said, "because I really do think when he's in the eighth inning, pitching well, that's our best team. At the moment we probably need to do something different."
Prior to Monday's game against the Tigers, Francona noted that sidearmer Joe Smith -- typically responsible for the seventh inning -- will temporarily take over as the primary setup man for closer Chris Perez. Francona plans on finding spots to mix in Pestano with the hope of getting the reliever on a roll again.
Pestano, who set the Indians' single-season franchise record with 36 holds a year ago, dealt with discomfort in his right elbow earlier this season and has been inconsistent since returning to the bullpen in May. In 21 games since coming off the disabled list, he has an uncharacteristically high 5.66 ERA to go along with a .289 opponents' batting average.
Pestano, 28, surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning against Detroit on Sunday, giving him a 7.04 ERA over his past eight appearances. For the season he has a 4.71 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 28 2/3 innings.
Pestano has been working through some mechanical adjustments lately -- his arm angle and release point were off following his return from the DL -- but he was blunt on Sunday when discussing what he needs to do.
"I've just got to get back to attacking guys," Pestano said. "Quit pitching scared and quit trying to miss bats. Just go out there and throw the ball and let what's going to happen, happen. Right now it seems like when I'm throwing the ball, I'm trying to make the outcome happen instead of just going out there and pounding the strike zone."
Across the 2011-12 seasons, Pestano posted a 2.45 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 132 innings for the Indians. That is the kind of pitcher Francona hopes to have back in the eighth inning in the near future.
"We've seen glimpses of the old Vinnie, but there's been some inconsistencies," Francona said. "We're going to try to pitch him in games where maybe we think it sets up a little better for him. We'll try to get that confidence rolling, because I think that's part of it.
"And then, once he gets back on a roll, then we'll get him back where it's a designated role."
Francona confident Carrasco will meet expectations
CLEVELAND -- Manager Terry Francona sees plenty of fire and potential when he watches right-hander Carlos Carrasco pitch. What Francona is waiting for is the moment when the light bulb goes off and Carrasco finally performs up to expectations.
"You see the light come on with guys," Francona said. "You never know when it does, but when it does, his ceiling is so high."
On Sunday, one day after his tough start against Detroit, Carrasco was designated for assignment. It was a paperwork transaction aimed at securing optional waivers in order to option him back to Triple-A Columbus.
Carrasco might return to the big leagues at some point this season, but the team is planning on filling his spot in the rotation for Thursday's home game against the Blue Jays. Francona is not ready to reveal the replacement but noted that the Indians would likely announce that decision on Tuesday.
What does Francona want Carrasco to work on in the Minor Leagues?
"Repeat the good stuff," he said. "As with a lot of young pitchers, when innings start to build, limiting damage, slowing the game down, however you want to say it. And that will happen. He's shown glimpses of it, and ... I think [he has] more fire in there than people give him credit for."
Through six starts, Carrasco is 0-4 with a 9.10 ERA, allowing 47 hits in 28 2/3 innings. Carrasco, who missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, has the highest single-season ERA in team history among starters with at least six starts.
"I just think the further he gets away from this surgery," Francona said, "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."
Quote to note
"I even was joking with [left fielder Michael] Brantley. I said, 'Next time he comes up, we're going to shift him.' Brantley looked at me and I said, 'I'm going to have you stand in the fifth row.'"
-- Francona, on facing Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera
• Second baseman Jason Kipnis stole his 20th base on Sunday, joining Grady Sizemore (2008), Roberto Alomar (1999) and Von Hayes (1982) as one of only four players in team history with at least 20 steals and 50 RBIs in a season's first half. Kipnis (2012, '13) and Sizemore (2007, '08) are the only players in Cleveland history to have at least 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a first half twice in a career.
• Left fielder Michael Brantley had a career day in Sunday's 9-6 win, going 3-for-4 with one double, two home runs and five RBIs. He entered Monday hitting .341 (.854 OPS) with runners on base, .362 (.938) with runners on and two outs, .367 (.905) with runners in scoring position, and .406 (1.082) with RISP and two outs.
• Backup catcher Lou Marson, who has been on the disabled list with a injured right shoulder since late April, played catch up to 90 feet on Monday as part of a throwing program. He was optimistic about his chances of resuming a Minor League rehab assignment soon, though he needs to advance through a long-toss program before being cleared for game activities.
• On Monday the Indians signed right-hander Justin Garcia, who was selected in the 38th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Weatherford College. Cleveland has now signed 23 of its 39 picks from this year's Draft.