Allen to close for Tribe; Miller versatile option

Allen to close for Tribe; Miller versatile option

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Whether accidental or intentional, Indians manager Terry Francona has avoided specifically referring to Cody Allen as his closer over the years. Applying that label did not always provide the proper description for the reliever's duties. If a situation came up earlier than the ninth, Allen has been available out of the bullpen.

With relief ace Andrew Miller now in the fold -- an arm best described as a leverage weapon for Francona -- the manager has altered his tune some on Allen's job title. Miller is the versatile option for any inning that Francona sees fit. Allen gives Cleveland's talented bullpen an end point.

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"Cody is our closer," Francona said after Saturday's full-squad workout. "For the most part, having him knowing he's there at the end is good. It's good for everybody else. It allows some flexibility for looking at matchups and things. When there's an end in sight for the guys, it's good for everybody."

Outlook: Miller, RP, CLE

Miller and Allen formed one of the all-time great bullpen duos last postseason.

Miller set single-playoff relief records for innings (19 1/3) and strikeouts (30), while logging 10 multi-inning efforts and posting a 1.40 ERA. For his efforts, the towering lefty took home the Most Valuable Player Award for the American League Championship Series against Toronto. In the postseason, Allen didn't allow a run in his 13 2/3 innings, ending with 24 strikeouts. The righty set a single-postseason record with 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings (minimum nine innings).

Throughout Cleveland's postseason run, Francona pushed his bullpen to the extreme. Miller entered the game in the fifth inning three times and also came in during the sixth (twice), seventh (four times) and eighth (once). Allen, for the most part, entered the game after the lefty, picking up six postseason saves. Only once, during Game 3 of the ALCS, did Allen enter before Miller.

"The reason I did it then was Andrew had been extended," said Francona, referring to how much Miller had been used in the previous games. "We were going to extend Cody. Then, we had Andrew to close if we were winning. If we weren't winning, we didn't use Andrew. That was really all it was."

That appears to be the blueprint for the upcoming season.

Miller, who was acquired from the Yankees in a blockbuster deal prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, was most often utilized by Francona as a leverage arm in a variety of situations. During the final two months, the manager called upon Miller in the sixth (once), seventh (eight times), eighth (11 times), ninth (five times) and 10th (once). Francona's preference is to use the lefty in critical situations before the ninth, knowing Allen is there to finish the job.

"There could be times where we'd flip-flop it. It could be usage," Francona said. "I don't know the exact [reason]. I guess the one instance I can think of is like, if Cody hadn't been used for three or four days and we really wanted to pitch him. Well, then you don't wait for the ninth, because you might not have a lead. There's instances like that. But, I do like the idea of Cody finishing and Andrew pitching [against] the meat of the order."

No matter what kind of labels are attached to their names, Allen said the relievers will remain flexible for Francona.

"You're just waiting for your number to be called," Allen said. "We're not down there to make decisions. We're not down there to think about what he's going to do. We're just down there to do what he's about to ask us to do. If you start worrying about the other stuff, or you start thinking about it, it's going to take away from what you're out there to do."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.