By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — As if they weren’t already rolling, the Cleveland Indians are getting back All-Star Andrew Miller.
Baseball’s hottest team plans to activate the elite left-hander on Thursday, ending his second stint on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right knee and giving the Indians their best reliever.
Despite not having Miller in their bullpen, the Indians have tied the AL record with 20 straight wins entering Wednesday’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the club hopes to have Miller pitch in Thursday’s game in a “low leverage” situation where he gets one out in an inning.
From there, the Indians will give Miller a few days off and then steadily increase his workload to prepare him for the postseason.
Miller spent two weeks on the DL in early August, returned and made just two appearances before he pulled out of games on Aug. 21 against Boston. The Indians want to make certain this time that Miller is good to go for October.
Miller threw a simulated game on Monday and Callaway said the 32-year-old appears stronger than the previous time he came off the DL.
“He feels great,” Callaway said. “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.”
One of the majors’ best late-inning pitchers, Miller is 4-3 with a 1.65 ERA in 48 games. Last October, the left-hander was nearly unhittable while helping the Indians get to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
Miller struck out 30 batters in 19 1-3 innings in the 2016 postseason.
If there has been one positive with Miller’s absence, it has allowed the Indians to use other relievers in pressure situations. Callaway noted that both Dan Otero and lefty Tyler Olson have benefited from extra work.
It has built Cleveland’s bullpen depth, but Callaway said it won’t affect the way the club uses Miller in the postseason.
“In a playoff game, you’re going to pitch your best guys,” he said. “That’s just how it goes. 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.”
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