Posted on September 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the second time in less than a month, the Cleveland Indians are welcoming reliever Andrew Miller back from the DL. The Indians activated Miller from the 10-day DL prior to Thursday’s game against the Royals, as the team tries to win its 22nd straight game. Cleveland can only hope that this time around the lefty will be able to remain healthy.
Miller has had a tumultuous time over the past two months while dealing with patellar tendonitis in his left knee. He originally went to the DL on August 2 with hopes that some rest would cause the discomfort to dissipate. He returned less than three weeks later. But in his second appearance since his return, he was forced to leave after just seven pitches and ultimately sent back to the DL. Now Miller and the Indians are ready to try again.
“He feels great,” said Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “The mechanics of it, the way he’s bracing himself when he’s throwing his slider, which was the real issue when his knee was bothering him, are all really good. We’ve been keeping track of the numbers during his simulated games and the spin, the velocity, the break, all those things are well in line with what he does during the season. So we’re very encouraged with everything so far.”
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After activating Miller on Thursday, Cleveland’s plan is to put him in low-leverage situations upon his return. He may only face a batter or two in his first few outings, as the Indians ease him back. The Indians are hoping to slowly get him up to speed over the final two and a half weeks of the regular season so that Miller is good to go by the start of the playoffs.
“In a playoff game, you’re going to pitch your best guys. That’s just how it goes,” Callaway said. “We trust everybody in the bullpen, but when the game is on the line, I think you’re going to see Andrew Miller in there pitching most of the time.”
During Miller’s absence, the Indians have been forced to put other relief pitchers into big spots. Callaway says that both Dan Otero and Tyler Olson have both stepped up as suitable setup men in front of Cody Allen. Nick Goody, Joe Smith, and Bryan Shaw have also posted good numbers for the Indians this season.
But once the playoffs begin, there’s no replacing a pitcher like Miller. In 10 postseason appearances last year, Miller pitched 19.1 innings, striking out 30 and posting a 1.40 ERA. Despite not being the team’s closer, he was awarded ALCS MVP honors. Before his knee became troublesome this season, Miller was having another outstanding year, being named to the All-Star Team for a second straight year. Even with a few poor outings caused by his knee, Miller owns a 1.65 ERA on the season.
Obviously, the Indians haven’t needed Miller to set an American League record for consecutive wins. But they will definitely need him in the postseason. When Miller is healthy and at his best, he’s the most impactful relief pitcher in baseball. The Indians have their fingers crossed that he’ll come back from the DL fully healthy this time around. If so, it could swing the American League playoffs in Cleveland’s favor.