Royals face a first-place Cleveland team that’s only .500

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians‘ battered bullpen might be getting some much-needed good news Friday, when the Indians will host the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a three-game series.

There is a chance Indians All-Star reliever Andrew Miller will be activated off the disabled list prior to Friday’s game. Miller was placed on the 10-day DL on April 26 with a strained left hamstring. Since Miller was placed on the DL, the Indians’ record is 5-9.

Many of those losses were the result of poor work by the Indians’ bullpen, a relief corps that ranks 14th in the American League with a 5.40 ERA, ahead of only the Royals (6.18).

Needless to say, the addition of Miller to the bullpen would be a welcome one. Miller underwent some strength tests Thursday, and the results of those tests will contribute to the decision on whether Miller will be activated Friday.

“I was hoping that it wouldn’t take this long,” Miller told MLB.com. “My hamstring is the least of my worries. I just want to make sure I’m sharp and be ready to help these guys.”

The Indians have already used 11 relievers this year, and most of them have struggled. Miller has not. In 11 appearances he has pitched 10 scoreless innings, allowing six hits, with 17 strikeouts and four walks.

The Indians return home for the three-game series with Kansas City, then hit the road again on an eight-game trip. The Indians are fresh off a five-game trip to New York, to play the Yankees, and Milwaukee. Cleveland lost four of the five games on the trip, and despite a mediocre record of 18-18, they still sit in first place in the weak American League Central.

Kansas City has rebounded from its dreadful start to the season. From April 10-28, the Royals went 2-15. Since then, however, they are 7-5.

“I’m glad we’re not totally buried,” Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star. “Our guys have done a good job. Even through the roughest times, I’ve kept my eye on them and I’ve never had to (say something). … They’re not hanging their heads. They’re not feeling sorry for themselves. They’re just working hard and getting after it.”

The Royals are coming off Thursday’s 11-6 loss to the Orioles, a game Kansas City led 4-0 on a grand slam by Salvador Perez on his 28th birthday.

Friday’s pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handers, the Royals’ Jason Hammel versus the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.

Hammel (0-4, 4.78 ERA) last faced the Indians on April 8 of this year, a 3-1 Royals loss. Hammel did not figure in the decision. He pitched six scoreless innings while allowing three hits and two walks and recording five strikeouts.

Hammel’s most recent start this season was a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Saturday, in which he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on 10 hits, with one walk and five strikeouts.

In five starts against Cleveland last year, Hammel was 3-2 with a 4.88 ERA. In 15 career appearances against the Indians, he is 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA.

Bauer (2-3, 2.53) is coming off his most frustrating start of the season, a 5-2 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. In that game Bauer retired the first 13 batters he faced before giving up four runs in the fifth inning, two of the runs being unearned. Bauer pitched six innings, allowing those two earned runs on two hits, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Bauer last faced the Royals on April 7 this year, a 1-0 loss in which he pitched eight innings, giving up one run on three hits, with seven strikeouts and two walks. In 11 career starts against the Royals, Bauer is 2-4 with a 3.08 ERA.

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