CLEVELAND -- The Indians carried Michael Brantley on their American League Division Series roster not only because they felt the veteran earned it, but due to his ability to be a factor as a pinch-hitter off the bench. Manager Terry Francona has noted that Brantley's role could expand, and that could happen as soon as Game 3 tonight in New York.
Prior to Game 2 of the ALDS presented by Doosan against the Yankees, Francona said that Brantley would continue to test his recovering right ankle during Saturday's workout at Yankee Stadium. If all goes well, Brantley might be cleared to start in left field tonight against New York right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
"That's kind of the plan -- maybe," Francona said. "We want to, No. 1, make sure he's OK. But I think things are looking like we're going to be able to do that. I'll certainly check with him six more times, but I think he's going to be OK."
Brantley sustained a right ankle ligament injury on Aug. 8 and was sidelined until Sept. 30, when he returned with a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with a pinch-hit single against the White Sox. Brantley had three at-bats within the season's final two games, showing just enough to earn a spot on the ALDS roster.
In 90 games this season, Brantley hit .299 with nine homers, 20 doubles, 52 RBIs and an .801 OPS, and he was named to the AL All-Star team. A year ago, the outfielder missed the postseason while recovering from right biceps and shoulder woes that limited him to 11 games last season.
Returning to the starting lineup tonight would be a long-awaited moment for Brantley.
"That's kind of where we're at," Francona said. "He's, I think, getting to that point."
Miller available after taxing outing
On the surface, the pitching line turned in by Indians relief ace Andrew Miller in Thursday's 4-0 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS looks alarming. The left-hander logged 30 pitches and issued two walks, and closer Cody Allen entered in the eighth to escape a jam that arose when Miller was on the mound.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Miller's outing was skewed by the 12-pitch battle between the reliever and New York's Chase Headley.
"He pitched really good," Callaway said. "That [was] Headley's fault that it looked bad. He threw  strikes to the first two batters [in the eighth] and walked one of them. That's probably never happened ever in Major League Baseball, and it'll probably never happen again. You don't walk a guy when you throw  strikes and [four] balls in  pitches. That's crazy. Headley just put a great at-bat together."
Miller struck out three batters in the outing, topped out at 97.1 mph and averaged 94.6 mph with his fastball, per Statcast™. Even after that taxing outing, the left-hander will likely be available for Game 2, according to Callaway, especially with an off-day looming on Saturday.
"I felt sharp," Miller said. "The Headley at-bat, that's a credit to him. ... It wasn't me being erratic. I threw some really good pitches, and he either laid off of them or wasted them. That happens."
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.