Andrew Miller is facing closing time. Each save he records could bring him closer to his last. And he doesn’t seem to mind.
Aroldis Chapman is eligible to return from his suspension May 9 and is expected to take over as the closer, the role Miller has held since joining the team last season.
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Miller struck out the side in the ninth inning Sunday to earn his third save as the Yankees beat the Mariners, 4-3. There’s something special about being the closer — the crowds seem to cheer louder and the role is more significant — but Miller is preparing to leave the spotlight.
“I’ve been something other than a closer for the majority of my career,’’ he said. “Basically for a year, I’ve had that title or position, whatever. I know you can help a team without being a closer. And whatever I do, I do. Whatever we can do to win is honestly what’s most important. I think you’re going to hear that from all 25 guys here, so I’m going to stick to that, and whatever the role is, wherever Joe [Girardi] asks me to pitch, I’ll be ready.’’
His manager expects nothing less. “Andrew made a really strong statement when we acquired Chapman, [saying] he’s here to win,’’ Girardi said, “and I don’t think that will change.’’
Gardner heating up
Brett Gardner, who had three hits, was 7-for-12 in the three-game series and lifted his average to .314.
“He’s played well,’’ Girardi said. “Even when he wasn’t hitting, he was getting on base via the walk. I think he does a very good job offensively and defensively. He’s played the way he’s capable of playing.’’
Gardner said, “I saw the ball well today. Just felt good at the plate. Saw the ball well. Good balance, good timing.’’
Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury each had a stolen base Sunday. The team has 13 and started the day tied with the Astros for the major-league lead with 11.
“They’re picking their spots, they’re getting on base, the right guys are getting on base,’’ Girardi said. “Some of the situations have been right and they’re taking advantage of it.’’