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Reinforcements on the way for Cubs pitching staff

2 years agoTony Andracki

The Cubs rotation is approaching full strength as a pair of veterans are nearing returns.

Wade Miley threw 50 pitches in a bullpen Saturday at Wrigley Field and will face live hitters Wednesday.

Alec Mills made a rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa Saturday, tossing 62 pitches over 3 innings.

“Yesterday was good,” Mills said Sunday at Wrigley Field. “Definitely a step in the right direction. Felt more like myself.”

Mills has been sidelined with a low back strain since late in Spring Training and Saturday’s rehab outing represented his first game action of 2022.

He missed nearly a month with a low back strain early in the 2021 campaign and said this injury is “very similar.”

“It was just something that I felt but it wasn’t too bad and thought I could get through it,” Mills said. “When I got back on the mound [late in Spring Training], decided it was probably best to cool it and get on top of it before I make it worse and miss more time.”

Mills has been focused on making sure his core is working the way it’s supposed to and increasing the flexibility of his hips in hopes of eradicating further back issues. He said he felt good after Saturday’s outing.

There is no plan yet for when Mills will make another rehab appearance, but his return to the big leagues certainly looks to be on the horizon.

What role he has, however, is undecided.

Mills has worn a variety of different hats for the Cubs over the last 4 seasons, making 37 starts and 22 relief appearances.

He has generally fared better as a starter (4.45 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) than as a reliever (5.24 ERA, 1.40 WHIP).

For now, the Cubs are simply building Mills up to start and will figure out how all the puzzle pieces fit together later.

“I think the true direction for me would be to start Millsy,” David Ross said. “That’s how he’s building up. Depending on personnel, where we’re at, health and concerns about a lot of things and optionable pieces — all those things take into factor of how we fit things together. I know Millsy’s done multiple roles, so that’s always an option.”

The Cubs currently have four rotation spots locked down with Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly.

Mark Leiter, Jr. has taken the ball as the fifth starter the last couple times through the rotation but — like Mills — he could also pitch out of the bullpen.

Miley, 35, has not been able to make his Cubs debut yet because of elbow inflammation.

There is obviously no timetable for exactly when he will come off the IL, but it’s an encouraging sign for the Cubs that he was able to build up to 50 pitches in a bullpen and throw again a few days later.

Whenever he is able to return, he will be a boost to the rotation.

Miley went 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA last season and carries 11 years of big league experience.

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