CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Contenders around baseball are currently in stages of trying to work back their best players from injuries, without much of an outlet to do so.
The days of rehab starts are just about over with the vast majority of minor league seasons wrapped up, meaning recovering players have limited opportunities to get live reps before making their big league returns.
The Washington Nationals will struggle to find a spot for star outfielder Bryce Harper as he recovers from a bone bruise, and the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox will have to find innings for Jake Arietta and David Price when they return in the coming weeks.
The Indians will have plenty of decisions to make for their playoff roster as it is, and many of them will depend on how much work the likes of Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis can get before October.
Probably the most important of the injured Indians to their post-season chances, Miller threw just upwards of 20 pitches in a simulated game at Progressive Field on Friday. Manager Terry Francona said the lefty will throw “a couple more” next week before returning.
Miller said he would like to get between four to six game appearances before the season, something which Francona called ‘ambitious.’
“That would be great if he could do that because I think, one, it helps us win, but you certainly have a better understanding of where you are, not wondering what you have and what you don’t have,” the skipper said.
The AL Central leaders will have 21 games remaining following Friday, making Miller’s goal attainable depending on when he does return.
“The more I get, the better, I think is the way that I look at it,” Miller said. “The more opportunities I get to get out there and make adjustments and get back into game speed is going to be good for me, but I don’t think it’ll take too much.”
Overall, the 2016 ALCS MVP said he felt better than the last time he attempted to return from his right patellar tendonitis.
“A couple days is what it sounds like and then do a more extended version than what I did today,” he added. “I want to pitch. I want to get in games. These are the adjustments I need to make. At this point, I’m happy with everything.”
Kipnis stood in as a hitter for Miller’s sim game, tracking pitches like a live situation. Placed on the disabled list on August 23rd with a nagging hamstring injury, Kipnis’s best chance of live action before his return would be simulated games against the likes of Kyle Crockett or Shawn Morimando, according to the manager.
Both Kipnis and Brantley are expected to be out of action until at least September 15th, at which point the team would have 15 games remaining. Brantley has yet to begin running on a weight-bearing treadmill or on flat ground.
Meanwhile, Danny Salazar declined the opportunity to throw a sim game, opting to try and find live opportunities. Francona said that the team will do their best to find time for the right-hander, but did not promise anything for the sake of not trying to pre-determine a game situation.