CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians have top reliever Andrew Miller, one baseball’s best, back at their disposal.
Obviously, they’ve managed OK without him.
The nasty left-hander was activated from the disabled list on Thursday after recovering from knee tendinitis over the past three weeks, which happened to coincide with the Indians reeling off an AL record 21 straight wins — the second-longest streak in 101 years.
While off to the side, Miller has enjoyed it.
“They’ve been an incredible team to watch,” Miller said Thursday before the Indians opened a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s not a lot of fun to miss out on ever, but they’ve been exciting to watch and have found a lot of different ways and pretty good baseball across the board. It’s a tribute the staff and what kind of team we have and the types of players we have and hopefully it’s a nice building block to where we want to go.”
The Indians have one goal — winning the World Series.
And to do that, they’ll need Miller, who dominated last year’s postseason like few relievers ever.
Miller hasn’t pitched since Aug. 21, when he pulled himself from an appearance in Boston and went on the DL for the second time with tendinitis in his right knee. The Indians started their streak three days later.
Manager Terry Francona laughed when asked if he had a spot for “this Miller guy.” The Indians intend to use Miller for a batter or two in Thursday’s game and closely monitor him before increasing his workload in preparation for what the club hopes is another long postseason.
“We need to build him back into this,” Francona said. “Because the goal is for him to be a huge weapon that he can be. But I think there’s a progression, and we’ll pay attention to it.”
Francona rode Miller in last year’s postseason, using him for multiple innings as the Indians won their first pennant since 1997. The 6-foot-7 lefty, who came over in a July trade from the Yankees, was virtually unhittable, striking out 30 in 19 1/3 innings.
Miller figures to again have a major role this year, but Francona doesn’t want to wear him out. By the time Game 7 of last year’s World Series rolled around, he felt Miller was tired.
“He threw a lot of pitches,” Francona said. “I don’t even know that I’d do that again. That bothered me at times. It wasn’t the goal to have him actually throw that much. I thought it was a lot. The intent was never to have him throw that many pitches. He’s able to do it. We’d love for him to be a huge weapon. I don’t think that it entails throwing that many pitches.”
Miller thought he was fresh until the very end a year ago, and he’s willing to do whatever’s asked.
“I felt pretty strong at the end of the playoffs last year,” he said. “Hopefully my arm caught a little bit of breather here, but that’s been pretty good throughout the year. I know that last year was a lot of innings, obviously. We played as long as you possibly could. I did the WBC and all that stuff this year and I feel like my arm’s reacted pretty well to it.
“You hope that there’s a positive and I’m a little bit fresher.”
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