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Miller returns, escapes jam in win over Royals

Reliever had been sidelined with a knee injury; Almonte placed on DL
MLB.com @MLBastian

KANSAS CITY -- The Indians got a major part of their bullpen back just in time for this weekend's key divisional clash with the Royals.

Relief ace Andrew Miller pitched two-thirds of an inning in the Tribe's 10-1 win in Friday night's series opener after being activated from the 10-day disabled list, following his bout with right knee soreness. In order to clear a spot on the roster for Miller's return, outfielder Abraham Almonte was placed on the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Indians got a major part of their bullpen back just in time for this weekend's key divisional clash with the Royals.

Relief ace Andrew Miller pitched two-thirds of an inning in the Tribe's 10-1 win in Friday night's series opener after being activated from the 10-day disabled list, following his bout with right knee soreness. In order to clear a spot on the roster for Miller's return, outfielder Abraham Almonte was placed on the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain.

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Miller was called on when starter Corey Kluber had to exit in the sixth due to a right ankle sprain. With runners on first and second, Miller struck out Mike Moustakas and walked Brandon Moss to load the bases before inducing a flyout by Alcides Escobar to end the Royals' threat.

Losing Miller could have been a major blow for the American League Central-leading Tribe, but the rest of the pitching staff -- led by a dominant two-week stretch for the rotation -- more than held up its end of the bargain.

"I don't think anybody really changed anything," bullpen coach Jason Bere said before the series opener. "I don't think anyone looked at it like, 'Oh, Miller's gone. We need to pick up the slack.' They were already throwing the ball well on a consistent basis for the most part.

"There always seems to be a moving piece at times throughout the course of a year, and these guys don't skip a beat. But, the impact Miller makes, it's definitely a difference-maker."

While Miller was sidelined, the Indians went 9-5 and increased their lead atop the Central to 5 1/2 games over Kansas City, heading into this weekend's series. Over the course of those 14 games sans Miller, Cleveland's rotation averaged a touch under seven innings per start with a 1.91 ERA in that span, easing the burden on the bullpen.

Miller will return to his role as a leverage weapon for the later innings for manager Terry Francona, with Cody Allen getting the bulk of the save opportunities. Miller, who struck out two in a 12-pitch Minor League rehab outing with Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday, has a 1.67 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 15 walks in 46 games (54 innings) for the Indians this season.

"We'll be prudent," Francona said of using Miller. "We're not going to run him into the ground here. But, it's nice to have him back."

With Almonte sidelined, Cleveland's outfield consists of Bradley Zimmer (center), Jay Bruce (right), Austin Jackson (all three spots) and Brandon Guyer (corners). Almonte joins outfielders Michael Brantley (right ankle) and Lonnie Chisenhall (right calf) on the DL.

"The 10-day DL kind of makes the decision a little bit better," Francona said of Almonte's setback. "We'll give Abe some time with the trainers."

Worth noting

• Third baseman Jose Ramirez (hit on the right forearm by a pitch on Thursday) took batting practice from both sides of the plate and tested his arm with some throwing on Friday. He was out of Cleveland's lineup, but was expected to be able to return on Saturday.

"All in all," Francona said, "we dodged a pretty big bullet. He's in a pretty good place."

• Right-hander Josh Tomlin (on the 10-day DL since July 31 with a left hamstring injury) was scheduled to throw off the mound on Friday. Barring any setbacks, Tomlin would then advance to a simulated game on Monday in Cleveland.

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