GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians opened their Cactus League schedule with a tilt against the Reds on Wednesday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark. About a half-mile down the road from the stadium, Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano had a different kind of debut.
On one of Cleveland's practice fields, Pestano faced a group of Minor League hitters in his first live batting practice session of Spring Training. After a trying 2013 campaign, the right-hander has taken a slow approach in the opening weeks of camp, but he is beginning to feel like himself again.
"I feel comfortable on the mound finally. That's probably the biggest thing," Pestano said. "Last year, I was uncomfortable for the majority of the season."
A fixture in Cleveland's bullpen as a setup man over during the 2011-12 seasons, Pestano is now attempting to win a job within the relief corps. The right-hander was a virtual lock for a spot on the roster in previous springs, but his rocky showing last summer -- one hindered by a right elbow injury -- has him now jockeying for position among the many arms in camp.
Asked where Pestano stood in terms of the bullpen competition, Indians manager Terry Francona indicated that more time is needed to see how the pitcher progresses.
"That's an interesting one," Francona said. "I think you actually kind of treat everybody a little bit different. Not as far as respect goes or things like that, but as far as where they are in their career. Vinnie is probably a unique case in our camp. He's a guy that two years ago locked down the eighth inning.
"He got to a point last year where we felt we had to send him to Triple-A and it was frustrating for everybody. We know Vinnie can do it, but we do have to see it. We'd love for him to do it. That's probably the best I can give you."
Pestano, 29, turned in a career-worst 4.08 ERA in 37 appearances last season for the Indians. The righty had an ERA of 2.32 in 2011 and 2.57 in 2012. Considering how last season went, Pestano initiated his offseason throwing program a couple of weeks later than he had done in previous winters.
"It was good. It felt good to see some hitters," Pestano said of his latest mound session. "I'm just playing a little bit of catchup right now. I'll miss one or two games early. For a reliever in spring, once you get throwing every other day, you can get your 10 or 12 innings pretty quick."
Francona gets clarity on instant-replay changes
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona admits to having some anxiety over the changes that have been made to baseball's instant-replay system. After a couple of meetings with Major League Baseball officials, he expects his nerves to calm down a little.
Francona, general manager Chris Antonetti and other members of Cleveland's staff met with MLB executives in Peoria, Ariz., on Tuesday evening to go over the revamped replay rules, which now include manager challenges. On Thursday morning, MLB officials will swing by the Indians' spring facility to meet with the team to go over a variety of topics.
"There were a couple moments of panic," Francona said of trying to grasp the new replay system at first. "But I took notes [during Tuesday's meeting] and I know Chris did and all the guys who were there, and we kind of put our heads together. I know I'll feel better after those guys come [Thursday].
"We've got some work ahead of us. I think we know that. I think the one thing we need to remind ourselves is that you can make yourself go crazy thinking up every single play."
Francona noted that Tuesday's gathering -- one that included MLB executive vice president Joe Torre and replay subcommittee member Tony La Russa -- included going over plays that are reviewable, among other issues. Indians bench coach Brad Mills, assistant GM Mike Chernoff and director of baseball operations Derek Falvey were also on hand.
As part of the new system, each team will have a technician in the clubhouse during games to monitor plays and communicate with the dugout about whether a challenge might be in order. Francona indicated that the Indians are in the process of hiring someone for that role and an announcement could come within the next few days.
Francona still has questions about MLB's new experimental rule covering home-plate collisions, but he said he plans on trying to get more clarity and information during Thursday morning's meeting.
This spring, at least five of Cleveland's Cactus League games will include the use of the new instant-replay system.
"There's a lot to explain," Francona said. "Any time there's something new, I think your initial thought is panic or anxiety, especially with all that's potentially riding on it. I guess my first thought was, 'OK. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Process it.' And then try to figure out as we go what's the best way to view this."
Quote to note
"That's the million-dollar question. You bring a kid into your office and you tell him he's fighting for a job. And then he goes out and hits .400 and he doesn't make the team. We've all seen that. I think you have to take track record, how they look, how they fit. Batting average is so skewed in a small sample size and in this environment."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on how to evaluate players during Spring Training
• Indians catcher Carlos Santana, who has been working on a transition to third base this spring, did not appear in Wednesday's Cactus League opener. Manager Terry Francona said Santana would make his game debut at third on Thursday. Francona is not sure when Santana might resume working on catching drills.
"We don't know, to be honest with you," Francona said. "Some of it probably depends on how third base goes. I would say minimum, a couple weeks. We want him to go out there, be himself and then we'll see."
• Indians catching prospect Tony Wolters chipped in a run-scoring single and outfield prospect Carlos Moncrief made an impressive running catch in right field during Wednesday's spring opener against the Reds. Francona said getting to see young players perform is a highlight of Spring Training.
"It's fun," Francona said. "We tell our veteran players that they're getting ready for a long season. We hold them to a higher standard. But, it is fun to watch the young kids come in and play, because some of these guys, it's their first Major League camp. They're excited to be in there and we're excited to watch them."
• Indians first baseman Bryan LaHair, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, has been gradually resuming hitting drills while returning from September wrist surgery. Francona said LaHair hit overhand tosses in the batting cage on Wednesday for the second day in a row.
• At the moment, the Indians do not have any "B" games on their schedule as a way to spread out the innings for the many pitchers in camp. Francona said Cleveland turned down a recent offer for such a game, adding that the Tribe has not ruled out mixing one in at some point.