Andrew Miller already is sporting his post-Yankees facial hair.
It’s not a statement against the Yankees’ age-old rule, though. “It’s more of just me being lazy,” he said Friday.
The Indians sent a package of highly touted prospects to the Yankees to acquire the lefthanded reliever’s services Sunday. Just five days later, Miller made his return to the Bronx.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said of his time in pinstripes. “It’s obviously not the full term I signed up for, but I got to play with guys who are going to the Hall of Fame. I got to play in front of great fans. I got to put on one of the classic uniforms and play for a team with more history than anyone else.”
Miller made a name for himself in New York for his reliability in late-game situations. He arguably was the American League’s best reliever in 2015 with 36 saves and 100 strikeouts in 61 2⁄3 innings.
Through Thursday, he had 80 strikeouts in 47 innings this season.
“He’s an elite pitcher,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians entered play with a 61-45 record, tops in the AL Central. Effective young pitchers and dynamic youth in key positions have made them contenders for a postseason berth.
“Being realistic about the market we’re in, for ownership and Chris [Antonetti, the team president] and those guys to make a move, the guys in the clubhouse, they appreciated it,” Francona said. “I appreciated it.”
In his 11 seasons, Miller has been traded four times. He said he tried for a no-trade provision in his Yankees contract but added that he didn’t have the leverage to make that happen.
The Yankees dealt Miller after trading Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, dismantling the late-game trio of relievers (only Dellin Betances remains) who served as a marketing tool and nightmare for opposing lineups.
That imposing bullpen will be missed, but manager Joe Girardi said he’ll also miss Miller’s unselfish attitude and commitment to winning.
“He meant so much to this organization,” Girardi said. “It’s a guy who impacted our clubhouse and our team, in a year and a half, as much as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Francona said Miller’s role down the stretch will fluctuate based on the situation. He pitched in the sixth inning Thursday because Francona felt that was when he would best be utilized.
“We have a chance,” Francona said. “When you have a chance — like I said, there are no guarantees — but man, coming to the ballpark sure is fun.”