Preview: Brewers vs. Indians

MILWAUKEE — A little more than a month after he strained his hamstring working a meaningless inning of mop-up duty at the tail end of an 8-0 rout by the Chicago Cubs, Corey Knebel will return to the Milwaukee Brewers‘ bullpen Wednesday morning when they wrap up a two-game interleague set with the Cleveland Indians at Miller Park.

Knebel and the Brewers felt like they caught a break when an MRI revealed the All-Star closer had only suffered a strain. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks but his recovery went better than expected and he performed well enough on a minor league rehab assignment to return to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Discussing a flurry of roster moves prior to the series opener with the Indians, Milwaukee general manager David Stearns had said Knebel likely would remain on the DL until later in the week. But when starting pitcher Wade Miley strained is oblique three batters into what would be a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night, the move was made.

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Milwaukee’s bullpen didn’t miss a beat without Knebel locking down the eighth inning. The team went into their off-day Monday with the second-lowest relief ERA in the National League and got another impressive showing Tuesday as Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Jennings and Josh Hader combined for four perfect innings — with Hader working two innings for his fifth save of the season.

Milwaukee’s offense is still a concern, though. The Brewers got two home runs Tuesday — including one from Brent Suter — but after replacing slumping second baseman Eric Sogard with Nick Franklin earlier in the day, Franklin joined Miley in the group of disabled list candidates.

“We’re going to activate Corey (Wednesday),” manager Craig Counsell said. “We were getting close — especially on the pitching front — getting close to healthy. And we go down another guy. We’ve got moves to make, obviously, and guys to activate, but we’re trying to get to full strength here.”

The Indians got good news Tuesday on the injury front, too. Left-handed relief specialist Andrew Miller threw to batters from the mound Tuesday afternoon as he nears a return from a hamstring strain that has sidelined him since April 26.

“He looked really good,” manager Terry Francona said. “When we get back home on Thursday, he’ll get his strength measured and as long as there’s not much of a deficit, we’ll get him going.”

Cleveland’s bullpen has been a disaster since Miller went down, combining for a 10.80 ERA in the 12 games between Miller’s injury and the start of the Milwaukee series.

The Indians added former Brewers reliever Oliver Drake to help stabilize the relief corps, and while he didn’t pitch Tuesday, Cleveland got three scoreless innings of work from its bullpen.

“They gave us a chance,” Francona said.

But the Indians’ offense struggled again and has scored a total of eight runs over its last three games.

“It’s frustrating, I’m not going to lie, but it’s part of the game,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “We understand there will be stretches when we don’t score as many runs.”

An offensive awakening would be a welcome sight for Carlos Carrasco, who takes the mound for Cleveland Wednesday.

Carrasco (4-1, 3.95 ERA) is 0-1 with a 10.90 ERA over his past two starts and allowed six runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays his last time out. He has never faced the Brewers.

“Our pitching staff carried us for a long time and now it’s time for us to help them out,” Lindor said. “The past couple of days have been tough but that’s part of the game. (The Indians’ pitching staff) is one of the best in the league, we just have to help them out a little bit.”

Right-hander Junior Guerra (2-2, 2.33 ERA) is looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season.

He was tagged for five runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four over five innings of a loss to Pittsburgh May 4.

Prior to that, he’d been dominant, going 2-1 with a 0.82 ERA in four starts.

Wednesday will be Guerra’s first career start against the Indians.