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Indians being conservative with Miller's workload

MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Andrew Miller was originally slated to make his next Cactus League appearance on Friday against the Rockies, but that schedule changed on Thursday. Indians manager Terry Francona said there was no reason for concern. Miller is simply on a conservative spring program.

"They just backed him up one day," Francona said. "He's doing fine."

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Andrew Miller was originally slated to make his next Cactus League appearance on Friday against the Rockies, but that schedule changed on Thursday. Indians manager Terry Francona said there was no reason for concern. Miller is simply on a conservative spring program.

"They just backed him up one day," Francona said. "He's doing fine."

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Miller's schedule was altered to include a mound session on Thursday, meaning his next game appearance will tentatively be on Saturday against the Padres. Cleveland has been easing both Miller and closer Cody Allen into things this spring. Miller has only two Cactus League outings to date, and Allen's appearance on Thursday against the Dodgers will mark his third.

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"[Miller] and Cody are kind of on the same program," Francona said. "I don't think they need a ton of innings. They throw sides. Just because they don't pitch in a game doesn't mean they're showing up and going home. They're doing a ton of stuff to get ready for the season. Whether it's in the weight room [or elsewhere], they're just getting ready to try to log a heavy lift."

Miller has averaged 65 innings and 65 appearances over the past four seasons, turning in a 1.72 ERA with 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings over that span. Last year, the lefty had two stints on the disabled list with a right knee issue, but he still fashioned a 1.44 ERA with 95 strikeouts against 21 walks in 62 2/3 frames. Allen has averaged 72 games and 69 innings with a 2.59 ERA over the past five seasons combined.

Video: Brantley talks about his swing during a sim game

Injury updates
• Right-hander Julian Merryweather is scheduled to undergo Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow Friday. Dr. Keith Meister, who performed the same procedure on Indians righty Cody Anderson last March, will perform Merryweather's operation in Dallas.

Merryweather, 26, is ranked 16th on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

"It's disappointing," Francona said. "But, in today's medical baseball [world], the odds of guys that work hard coming back are really good. It's not a lock, and we tell guys that, but I think some guys view it like, 'Well, I'm getting it out of the way and I can go about my career.' And I don't think work ethic has been a problem with him."

• Francona noted that both left fielder Michael Brantley and right-hander Danny Salazar were sent home on Thursday due to illness. Brantley (right ankle) came out of Wednesday's simulated game fine, and Salazar (right shoulder) is getting close to being cleared to resume throwing off a mound.

Camp battles
Both Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez were on the bench for Thursday night's game against the Dodgers. They are competing for a utility job on Cleveland's roster and both are out of Minor League options. Francona said defense is the biggest priority for that role.

"In my opinion," Francona said, "it's being able to catch the ball wherever you put them. Certainly, if you're going to give a guy a day off, but you have to pinch-hit for the guy you're putting in there, that's not perfect. I'm not too sure how many teams have a guy like that. So that's something to think about.

"But my first thought would be, when they go in, because they're going to move around, if they can't catch the ball, that makes it really difficult. With both those guys, that's not an issue. We're going to have a tough decision -- there's no doubt. There's a lot of split camps and, depending on the day, I probably go back and forth, too."

Urshela (a third baseman by trade) and Gonzalez (who came up as a shortstop) can play all four infield positions. Offensively, Gonzalez (.687 OPS in 81 big leagues games) has performed better in the Majors than Urshela (.587 OPS in 148 games).

Worth noting
• Second baseman Jason Kipnis headed into Thursday with the most home runs (six) this spring for both the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Kipnis' Opponent Quality so far this spring has been 8.5 on a 1-10 scale (one being rookie-level pitching and 10 being MLB-level pitching).

"It's fun to watch," Francona said. "Nobody's going to care come June how many home runs he hit in Spring Training, but it's fun to see guys [have success]. I do think it shows he's healthy and he's obviously got some strength, because the ball is jumping off his bat."

• Francona noted that Brandon Barnes is "right smack in the middle" of the outfield competition this spring. Three main candidates appear to be Rajai Davis, Melvin Upton Jr. and Barnes, who are all in camp on Minor League contracts with non-roster invites. Barnes hits from the right side and can play all three outfield spots.

• Thursday marked the third consecutive game with shortstop Francisco Lindor in Cleveland's lineup. Francona said that was at Lindor's request.

Up next
Indians ace Corey Kluber is scheduled to take the mound on Friday, when Cleveland heads to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a 3:10 p.m. ET Cactus League clash with the Rockies. Nick Goody, Matt Belisle, Alexi Ogando, Ben Taylor and Neil Ramirez are also slated to pitch for the Tribe. Righty Jon Gray will start for Colorado. The matchup will be available live on indians.com via an exclusive audio webcast.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Andrew Miller