Miller 'comfortable with delivery,' 'trending the right way'

Lefty on track to throw to live hitters Saturday

Alex Hooper
July 11, 2018 - 5:22 pm
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller delivers during the seventh inning of the team's baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, May 25, 2018, in Cleveland.

(AP Photo/David Dermer)

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Tuesday’s communication mishap between Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona and Pitching Coach Carl Willis was essentially the culmination of a bullpen gone bad in 2018.

Had lefty Andrew Miller been healthy, he would have been the one summoned to face Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, not Dan Otero or the intended southpaw, Oliver Perez.

Such is the trouble of pulling the lynchpin out of an already unstable unit, one that has kept Francona up more nights than Tuesday, after which the skipper said he slept from 6-to-8 AM. As for Francona’s future rest, all signs are pointing to his sleeping a bit easier.

Miller threw off of a mound again on Tuesday, tossing 20-pitches before taking an ‘inning break,’ and throwing 19 more.

“I think every time he throws, he takes a step in the right direction,” Francona said Wednesday. “The good side of it is he’s way more comfortable in his delivery. He even looks it. So he’s trending in a good way, which is really obviously huge for us.”

That next opportunity should come Saturday, at which point the lefty could throw against live hitters for the first time since leaving May 25 loss against the Houston Astros with inflammation in his right knee.

If the knee is stabilized, so may too be the Indians struggling bullpen, with or without potential reinforcements at the July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. Though the relief corps were never going at full steam with Miller in hand, his absences have been the breaking points.

Francona admitted that his relievers were having to carry the burden of Miller in the time without him in May, but with the emergence of Oliver Perez and Neil Ramirez, things have settled down. At least a little bit.

“I think they know he’s coming and it will certainly help us,” Francona said. “In the meantime, I think way back when this first happened, I remember saying I think in the long run it will make guys better and I believe that. (Zach McAllister) has had time to kind of get through some of those struggles, (Dan Otero), I think we’ll be better for it.

“Our record might not be, but when we get fully healthy we can be a better team.”

With the Triple-A Columubs Clippers and Double-A Akron RubberDucks set to return to action Thursday, Miller would be able to get back into game action soon thereafter should he be cleared to do so. If so, a best-case timeline of his return immediately after the Major League All-Star break would begin to make sense.

Just because it may make sense to bring Miller back after the All-Star break does not mean it is the most sensible thing to do.

“We rely on him so much. We’re fortunate that it’s July and we have time to let him get on a roll. Because we’ve all seen what he can do when he gets on a roll,” Francona added. “We’ve just got to do it right. And up to this point we have. I think we’re going to get rewarded for it at some point because he’s going to help us a ton.”

Getting lefty Tyler Olson back from the disabled list may be a positive step, should he return to some semblance of his 2017 form. The lefty was activated Wednesday as fellow lefty Marc Rzepczynski was designated for assignment.

Olson, said to have been dealing with a left lat strain for most of the year, has posted a 7.27 ERA and 4.11 FIP over 17 1/3 innings in 28 appearances in 2018. His 2017 campaign saw Olson not allow an earned run in 20 innings over 30 appearances.