After two weeks of looking slightly more human than usual, Andrew Miller has been sent to the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right knee.
Miller told reporters that his knee has been bothering him for a few weeks, and it’s been clear that he hasn’t been quite himself since the All-Star break—walking five and hitting two batters in his last 10 appearances. The fact that he hasn’t allowed many baserunners otherwise means that those mistakes haven’t been particularly damaging for him, but they’ve at least signaled that something might be a bit off for a guy who walked a total of only nine batters in more than 74 innings last season.
Cleveland hasn’t given an exact timeframe for his return, but manager Terry Francona said today that he hoped his star reliever would be ready when his 10 days on the DL are up. Given the weight of Miller’s workload thanks to his role as a fireman—with 54 innings pitched so far, he’s logged more time this year than all but eight other relievers—some time to rest up could be crucial before heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Having to go without Miller in the interim, however, isn’t ideal. Cleveland has only a two-game lead over Kansas City for first place in the AL Central—and while they have one of the best bullpens in baseball, with the lowest relief ERA and FIP in the American League, that outlook gets considerably murkier without Miller. They just lost another left-handed reliever in Boone Logan, who went on the 60-day DL with a lat injury this weekend, and their quest to acquire bullpen help at the deadline was limited to bringing back sidearmer Joe Smith. Though Smith is striking out more batters this year than he ever has, with a K/9 rate of 12.4, he’s far more fairly categorized as a simple depth piece than as an impactful addition. Meanwhile, closer Cody Allen is mired in months of struggle—with career-worst numbers in home run rate, ERA, FIP and recorded losses.
Essentially, Miller’s absence shouldn’t necessarily be debilitating for Cleveland, but they’re still not going to want to have to go too long without him.