CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller took the first significant step to his return Friday, throwing from the mound at Progressive Field prior to the series opener with Baltimore.
The Indians have taken a more aggressive rehabilitation approach with Miller, whose last attempt to come back from patellar tendinitis in his right knee failed after only two appearances.
“I feel good, better this time than the last time,” said Miller, who has been sidelined since Aug. 21. “My volume is a lot more than the last time I was trying to come back. That’s part of the plan. It’s been good. I want to pitch. I want to get in games. These are the adjustments I need to make. At this point, I’m happy with everything.”
Miller estimated that he threw around 40 pitches Friday. According to manager Terry Francona, the plan is for Miller to pitch in two simulated games next week.
“I think his volume of work and throwing has been so much more this time that he’s in a much better place,” Francona said. “He’s a really big weapon for us, so we’ve tried to do it where we’re not rushing because we want him back healthy. One, it’s only fair to him. We might not have a guy that can throw as much as he did last year, but it’s still worth having him.”
Miller said he would prefer to pitch in five or six regular-season games to prepare for Cleveland’s postseason run.
“I hope that’s the case,” Francona said. “That might be a little bit ambitious, it might not be. That would be great if he could do that because I think, one, it helps us win, but you certainly have a better understanding of where you are, not wondering what you have and what you don’t have.”
“The more I get, the better, I think is the way that I look at it,” Miller said. “The more opportunities I get to get out there and make adjustments and get back into game speed is going to be good for me, but I don’t think it’ll take too much.”
Injured second baseman Jason Kipnis (right hamstring strain) tracked pitches from Miller on Friday as a simulated batter. But like Miller, Kipnis won’t be able to begin a minor league rehab assignment because none of Cleveland’s minor league affiliates are in the postseason.
“Kip’s doing really well,” Francona said. “The idea is to continue ramping up the intensity and the amount. The hard part now is then when you’re ready for a (rehab) game, we don’t have games. So we might have to get a little creative there, too. Maybe have a sim game with somebody like (Shawn) Morimando or (Kyle) Crockett.”
** Like Kipnis, Michael Brantley (right ankle sprain) has been participating in baseball activities, but is still unable to run on anything other than a treadmill.
“He’s doing everything except he can’t, he’s not ready to shake free of the assisted running thing,” Francona said. “I think he’s frustrated but there’s that one spot that’s just not ready to let him do it yet.”
** Jose Ramirez missed his second straight game with a sore right wrist, but Francona said it was likely Ramirez would return today.
Francona chooses to focus on the now, but he discussed Cleveland’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak through Thursday.
“Obviously, because we show up to win, I don’t want to downplay it because it’s been fun, it’s been productive,” he said. “But when we lose five or six in a row — well, hopefully not that — we don’t come in here dragging our tails. So on the flip side, you don’t want to get too carried away with yourself either, ’cause it is fluid.
“But I mean I’m proud of our guys. They’ve done a really good job under some trying circumstances, doubleheaders, whatever. And I think to be a good team you have to do that. It’s not always going to be 72 and sunny, and that’s when you really find out.”
A number of young players such as Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez have not only filled the injury void, they’ve contributed during the historic run.
“I think the veteran guys have done a really good job of welcoming some of these younger guys and allowing them to be a part of it and to maybe be a part of it successfully, where they’re not feeling like they’re walking on ice,” Francona said. “When everybody’s involved it’s always better, maybe not for the reasons ’cause guys are getting hurt, but it just seems like it works better when everybody’s involved.”
Included in the 15-game win streak was 11 straight road wins, something only four other teams in major league history have accomplished — not since Cincinnati in 1957. The Indians outscored the Yankees, Tigers and White Sox 76-22 over the span, trailing in only two of the 135 innings.