Miller back to doing his job

The Indians could not ask for anything more

Alex Hooper
September 20, 2018 - 5:16 pm
Sep 19, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) deliversa pitch in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Andrew Miller went to exit the clubhouse Tuesday night, but was almost immediately stopped by a horde of reporters.

“You want to talk to me?” he asked.

The 33-year-old MLB Players Association representative has never backed down from an interview, and even waits around following his seldom outings in which he struggles. The lefty on Tuesday earned a save in which he struck out three and allowed a hit.

He had simply done his job. It seemed unremarkable to one of the game’s best relievers. Yet, that in itself was remarkable.

The story was not the save, or necessarily even anything that he had done that night at all. It was that he would get a chance to do it again the next night.

Miller did get that opportunity, entering Wednesday’s 4-1 walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox in the top of the 7th inning. It was the first time Miller had pitched on back-to-back days in the majors since May 22 and 23.

He only recorded one out on five pitches in the outing, but on a day in which the Indians announced Trevor Bauer would return on Friday, the appearance another step in the healthy direction for a team desperately in need.

By that same token, Josh Donaldson also played his first back-to-back since a few days after those of Miller, last doing so on May 27 and 28. That concept, while promising in the same vein, also tells a story of just what Miller has been dealing with.

None of this is to say that Miller’s mere pitching has been the lone story. Manager Terry Francona said Tuesday’s offering was the southpaw’s ‘best outing yet.’

Miller was sharp immediately after returning from the disabled list on September 10, tossing two innings, allowing one hit and striking out four in Tampa. He then allowed a run in each of two outings against the Detroit Tigers before his back-to-back outings against the Sox.

While there was a setback in terms of results, the two-time All-Star never felt he took a step back in feel for his pitches.

"I think I threw the ball really well in Tampa. If I threw the ball the way I threw in Tampa, I'll be fine,” Miller said. “But that's not the reality. Reality is there are peaks and valleys. I'll try to ride the waves as long as I can, get off the bad ones, and like I said, Detroit wasn't the results I wanted and certainly isn't how necessarily I want to feel, it wasn't that far out of line that causes me to worry.”

He added that his arm feels as good as it has felt all year, and that his previously troublesome knee is not even on his mind anymore.

Next came the repetitions in which he could rediscover his delivery and hone his control. In an at-bat against Detroit’s Mikie Mahtook on Sep. 14, Miller threw five sliders over the course of six pitches in an attempt to do just that.

"It's getting there,” he added. “Part of -- my breaking ball was as good as it could be in Tampa, I thought. At least what I saw with the swings I saw.”

Everything else is trending towards the positive. The average velocity of Miller’s fastball has risen steadily since the second game of the Rays series from 93.64 mph to 95.39 mph on Wednesday. The velocity and horizontal movement on his diving slider have stayed steady since his return.