Indians reliever Andrew Miller progressing, but won't pitch before All-Star break

CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller won't help the Indians until after the All-Star break.

The excellent late-inning reliever, who pushed Cleveland through the postseason in 2016, has made progress with his right knee injury but will not be activated until later this month. Miller has been sidelined with inflammation in his knee since May 26, and his comeback recently stalled.

But he threw 31 pitches off a mound Thursday, and the Indians were excited and encouraged by his progress. Pitching coach Carl Willis told manager Terry Francona that Miller looked better.

"Went well," Francona said Friday before the Indians opened a three-game series with Oakland. "By Carl's account, you can really tell the difference that he's getting a little more sure of himself. The good news is that he really is making strides. My goodness, if we can get him back in time to get him on a roll, that's the biggest goal."

Francona said Miller will continue throwing bullpen sessions over the next week. With the All-Star break starting July 16, Francona said it's likely the Indians will continue to take it slowly with the 33-year-old.

"To try to do this right, I think we need to let him throw his bullpens," Francona said, adding it's possible Miller will be sent on a minor league rehab assignment before he's activated.

The left-hander has been dealing with knee issues since last year and has been limited to just 17 appearances this season. Miller was on the disabled list twice in 2017 with patella tendinitis.

Cleveland's bullpen isn't the same without Miller, who dominated in the '16 postseason -- he struck out 30 in 19⅓ innings -- and helped the Indians get to their first World Series since 1997.

Miller opened this season with 10 scoreless innings before hurting his left hamstring and going on the disabled list. He struggled when he returned and is 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA over 14⅓ innings.

Miller's health could affect what the Indians decide to do before the July 31 trading deadline.