Timelines on injured Cubs pitchers
When the Cubs were settling into spring camp and the flurry of roster moves were done, the projected rotation looked something like this:
1. Kyle Hendricks
2. Marcus Stroman
3. Wade Miley
4. Drew Smyly
5. Justin Steele
With Keegan Thompson and Alec Mills among the depth options.
That five-man group has been together for only two turns through the rotation this season. Stroman had an IL stint in mid-May while Miley is on his second trip to the shelf.
Miley missed the first few weeks of the season with an elbow injury, returned for 3 starts and is now out again with a shoulder issue. He threw a bullpen Thursday and the Cubs are hopeful he won’t be out for long.
Thompson has helped fill the void in the rotation, with another strong start Thursday night to improve to 6-0 on the season.
But now Smyly is on the IL with a right oblique strain and it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see him pitch again until July.
The veteran southpaw had to leave his start after 3 innings Monday night after he felt the side issue crop up over the final two batters he faced. He was placed on the IL Wednesday and the Cubs opted to keep rookie Matt Swarmer in the rotation for the time being.
“There’s no timeline,” Smyly said Thursday. “It’s just kind of on me. I feel like I can go through my range of motion pain-free. It’s probably gonna be a little while — 3-4 weeks, I dunno — before I can really have an idea of how close I am. I don’t think it will be within the first 15 days. We’ll see.”
Smyly said he isn’t in much pain but the MRI revealed a more severe strain. He is adhering to the doctors’ advice and understands that if he pushes the envelope too soon, he could reinjure it.
He had a similar injury during his rookie year and was sidelined for nearly a month before he was able to begin a rehab assignment and he spent another four weeks in the minors building up. That was also a decade ago, when he was 23 years old.
The Cubs do have some good news in the pitching department as Mills is nearing a return. He made a rehab start Wednesday with Triple-A Iowa, throwing 55 pitches over 3.2 innings.
Mills has not yet thrown in the big leagues this season, landing on the IL to begin the year with a low back strain. As he was working his way back, he experienced a quad injury and was ultimately placed on the 60-day IL.
He is eligible to return next week but will continue to stretch out in the minors. He is slated to make another rehab start Tuesday with Triple-A Iowa and hopes to build up to about 5 innings and 75 pitches.
Mills is in Chicago for a couple of days this week to work with Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and be around his teammates.
He also is able to spend a little time with his family at his home in Chicago. He has lived out of a hotel for most of the last two months while he has rehabbed and his wife and son have made the drive from Chicago to Des Moines multiple times already this spring.
Mills admitted it has been a long, arduous process to return to Wrigley Field, but that journey may soon be complete.
“Doing what I can do every day is all I can do,” he said. “Be ready to go every fifth day and if I can work on some things to be better, that’s obviously something we can do with that process.
“For me, when baseball’s done, go home and don’t think about baseball. Sometimes it’s easier to get away and hang out with my son and wife. It helps a lot to do that.”
When Mills returns, he will most likely slide into the Cubs’ rotation. He has filled a variety of different roles for the team over the last few seasons but has been most effective as a starter.
With Miley still out indefinitely and Smyly sidelined until sometime in July, Mills’ pending return could be coming just in time for the Cubs.