BOSTON -- The Indians have taken pride in having players step up when others are injured. That will be put to the test once again.
Prior to Wednesday's game against the Red Sox, Cleveland's bullpen absorbed a hit when the club placed relief ace Andrew Miller on the 10-day disabled list with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. The Indians promoted right-hander Adam Plutko from Triple-A Columbus to give the relief corps an insurance arm.
"We're going to get tested now," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You can either moan about it or you can kind of choose to feel like this is our time to shine. I think we'll choose the latter."
Miller is in the midst of another standout campaign for Cleveland, but the left-hander has endured some uncharacteristic struggles of late. In Tuesday's 12-10 loss to the Red Sox, Miller hit a batter, issued a walk and allowed a three-run double to Eduardo Nunez. He has more walks in his past 19 games (10 in 22 2/3 innings) than he had all of last season (nine in 74 1/3 innings).
Miller, who will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday in Cleveland to gather more information, said the knee has been bothering him for the past few weeks and has impacted his mechanics.
"I've felt like it explains some lack of crispness," Miller said. "I think that we're in a place right now where it seems like as soon as I pitch again, I go through something that sets it off again, and we get back to square one. So the idea is, with a little bit of time, we can get ahead of it and get it out and it won't come back."
With Miller temporarily out of the mix, Francona's late-inning options will include closer Cody Allen, along with setup men Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister. The Tribe also has right-hander Nick Goody and lefty Tyler Olson in the bullpen. Plutko is a starter by trade, but can offer multiple innings to a bullpen that has worked 16 1/3 innings in the past three games.
Through 46 appearances this year, Miller has a 1.67 ERA with 78 strikeouts against 15 walks in 54 innings, limiting batters to a .141/.223/.211 slash line. Heading into Wednesday, he was tied for third among American League relievers in innings and ranked third with a 2.0 WAR (per Fangraphs). He ranked first among AL relievers in Win Probability Added (3.09).
Over his past nine games, though, Miller allowed six hits, issued five walks and hit two batters (one in each of his past two appearances) in 9 2/3 innings.
"We grabbed him after [Tuesday's] game and talked for a while," Francona said. "And we said, 'Let's sleep on it,' but I kind of knew where this was going and I think he did, too. The hope is that after 10 days, this will calm down and the last six, seven weeks of the season he can be more of himself."
Tomlin sidelined six weeks
Right-hander Josh Tomlin (10-day DL) underwent an MRI exam in Cleveland on Tuesday and it was confirmed that the starter sustained a mild-to-moderate left hamstring tendon strain, according to the Indians. The team announced that Tomlin is expected to miss six weeks before potentially returning to Major League game action.
"It was mild, but it's the tendon I think that just takes a while to heal," Francona said. "And knowing J.T., like he told me [Tuesday], he goes, 'I'm ready to throw right now.' So, we're going to have to really sit on him. But it wouldn't surprise me if he goes quicker, just because he'll be champing at the bit. We've got to keep an eye on him, though."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Though he has just a pair of saves and four wins on the year, Miller has made a significant impact in shallow leagues by producing elite ratios (1.67 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) and 78 whiffs across 54 innings. The left-hander should be stashed during his DL stint in virtually all formats, with owners checking waivers for a replacement such as Brad Hand, Brad Ziegler or Shane Greene -- all solid save sources. Also of note: Miller's injury ensures that Allen will continue to handle Cleveland's save chances in the coming weeks.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.