CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller is back in town.
It will be awhile before he’s back pitching for the Indians.
The team is taking a cautious approach with the outstanding left-handed reliever as he recovers from right knee inflammation that sent him to the disabled list May 26.
He will do strengthening exercises over the weekend and resume throwing Monday, but not off a mound. Manager Terry Francona said the rehab won’t be accelerated for about 10 days.
Then he’ll head back to sessions on a mound before going on a minor league rehab assignment. There’s no timetable for a return to the Tribe.
“Get that thing as strong as we can,” Francona said Saturday. “We want to get him back and let him come back and be himself. The best way to do that is to be patient.”
Miller originally headed to the DL on April 26 with a left hamstring strain. He wasn’t his dominant self after he returned May 11. Over his last seven games before heading back to the DL, he was 0-3 with a 14.54 ERA (seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings), six strikeouts and six walks.
Miller is a critical component in a bullpen that has fallen well short of expectations. He was at his best during the run to the World Series in 2016, not allowing a run in the Division and AL Championship series as he struck out 21 in 11 2/3 innings.
“We saw the load he carried a couple years ago. For us to get where we want to go, and have the best chance to do that, he’s going to carry a big load,” Francona said. “So we feel like being patient is the best chance to get there.”
Francona said Miller is eager to get back but understands time is necessary to return to his overpowering form.
“When he was last pitching he was frustrated with knowing how important he is to the team, the results, the way the ball was coming out of his hand. He wasn’t really throwing it where he wanted to,” Francona said. “I think he gets excited about the chance to be himself.”
MUSIC TO HIS EARS
The jokes are inevitable. The prank a natural.
When rookie starting pitcher Shane Bieber took the mound to warm up Friday night, pop superstar Justin Bieber’s “Baby” played over the Progressive Field sound system. Shane Bieber didn’t pick it.
“I was laughing,” Bieber said after he struck out nine Tigers in seven innings to earn his second victory. “Frankie (Lindor) was near the mound, he was kind of singing along, making fun of me.”
Lindor was initially suspected of making the switch.
“I thought it was him, because he was enjoying it so much,” Bieber said. “But I think I found out it was one of the starting five. My intuition says it’s (ace Corey Kluber).”
Through three starts, Bieber (2-0, 2.45 ERA) has shown he’s not afraid to challenge big league hitters. He has continued his minor league practice of pounding the strike zone.
“I’m just trying to go out there and attack as much as I can,” he said. “I think that’s the best way to go about things, especially early on, is to be aggressive and see if your stuff plays. Fortunately I’ve been able to execute that the first three outings and I’m looking to carry that through.”
Bieber has struck out 22 and walked three in 18 1/3 innings. In 49 games in the minors, he was 16-6 with a 2.20 ERA, 255 strikeouts and 18 walks. The immediate success with the Tribe has helped him settle in.
“It’s definitely reassuring and it’s nice to see early on,” he said. “It’s only been three outings, but to at least see the stuff playing a little bit has been really nice.”
He helped the Indians to their second straight shutout Friday in a 10-0 win over the Tigers. It followed a 12-0 win Wednesday over the White Sox, marking the second time in franchise history they recorded consecutive shutouts with 10 or more runs. The other was June 23, 1931, vs. Boston, 13-0 and 10-0.
There have been only eight back-to-back double-digit shutouts in MLB history, most recently by Arizona in 2002. The Indians are the only franchise to do it twice.
Starter Danny Salazar, who’s been on the disabled list all season with a right shoulder injury, is throwing again on flat ground at the team’s facility in Arizona after a series of starts and stops.
“By all accounts he’s doing fine,” Francona said. “We’ve been here before, and when he gets up to the higher intensity is when we’ve run into problems. We have not run into a problem this time, though -- yet. And the hope is that he just keeps going.”
** Right-hander Carlos Carrasco threw long toss Saturday and is on track for a bullpen session Monday. He was placed on the 10-day DL on June 17 after taking a line drive off his right elbow.
** Lefty reliever Tyler Olson (lat strain) is expected to resume playing catch within the next couple of days. He went on the DL on June 17.
Francona doesn’t regret losing former prospect Jesus Aguilar, who’s hitting .305 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs this season for the Brewers.
Aguilar, a first baseman, played 64 games with the Indians from 2014-16 and was waived in 2017.
“We always thought with Aggie that probably the only chance he was going to get here was if somebody got injured. And that didn’t necessarily happen,” Francona said. “He needed an opportunity and he got it and he took advantage of it.”
The Indians entered Saturday as the only team in the majors with five players with at least 40 RBIs -- Jose Ramirez (50), Edwin Encarnacion (47), Yonder Alonso (43), Michael Brantley (42) and Lindor (41).
** The Indians entered Saturday with an AL-best eight shutouts.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.