KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Indians manager Terry Francona figured his tired team could use a morale boost in the midst of a long road trip, so he had a DJ spinning records and a pop-a-shot basketball game waiting in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Friday.
The Indians got another big lift when Andrew Miller walked through the doors.
The two-time All-Star was activated from the disabled list before the opener of a three-game series against AL Central contender Kansas City, once again solidifying the Cleveland bullpen. Miller had been on the DL since Aug. 2 with tendinitis in his right knee.
"All good, and we'll be prudent," Francona said. "We're not going to run him into the ground here, but it's nice to have him back. With (Tyler) Olson here, we can balance it a little bit."
Miller is 4-3 with a 1.67 ERA in 46 appearances for the Indians this season.
His roster spot opened up when the Indians put outfielder Abraham Almonte on the DL with a strained left hamstring. Almonte was hitting .222 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 53 games.
"This is one where the 10-day DL makes the decision a little better," Francona said. "It's not horrible. The 10-day helps you a little bit. Hopefully right before he's able to come off, we can get him a (rehab) game or two if he's ready."
In other injury news, third baseman Jose Ramirez was out of the starting lineup against the Royals after getting hit on his forearm Thursday in Minnesota. X-rays came back negative and Francona said the All-Star was "politicking" to play, but the skipper decided to give him the night off.
Giovanny Urshela started in place of Ramirez, who is hitting .308 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs.
"He took BP from both sides, went out there and threw," Francona said. "I just thought, 'Let's let him cool down and if he feels good, he's sitting there on the bench, and we can play him tomorrow.'
"All in all, we dodged a pretty big bullet."
Right-hander Josh Tomlin, who is on the DL with a strained left hamstring, threw a side session Friday and hoped to throw a simulated game Monday in Cleveland. Francona said the schedule got pushed back a bit because Tomlin had been throwing more than the training staff anticipated.
Francona also said outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, who's been out with a sprained shoulder, has been moving around well during a rehab stint at Triple-A Columbus.
"His at-bats have been pretty good. He just needs some repetition," Francona said. "But I think from the scouts that have seen him, if we really needed him he could play."
In the meantime, Chisenhall was missing out on a light-hearted clubhouse atmosphere.
Francona was talking to bench coach Brad Mills during the second game of Thursday's doubleheader in Minnesota, and both expressed how tired they were in the midst of an 11-game road trip. Francona figured if he was tired, the guys he's been sending onto the field every night must be exhausted.
So rather than arrive late in Kansas City and have his players to go through batting practice as usual, he hired a disc jockey and brought in an arcade game to lighten the mood. The DJ was set up in a corner near Friday night's starter, Corey Kluber, and provided the soundtrack to players' laughter as they tried to one-up each other in the pop-a-shot basketball game.
"I just thought it was better than showing up and going out on the field and taking BP and dragging — give them something to have a little fun," said Francona, who even took his turn at pop-a-shot.
"I said something to Kluber, 'Hey, I don't want to get in the way,' and he said he loved it," the manager said. "That's where the relationships come into play. It's not a big deal. It's just our way of showing we appreciate and we care."
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