It can’t always be this way for a ton of reasons, but it’s always nice when a young player comes up, performs exceptionally well, and then gets a chance to do it again.
So it is with starting pitcher Alec Mills, who filled in for Mike Montgomery/Tyler Chatwood on Friday, and will now get another start for the big league Cubs:
Mills will get another start for #Cubs. Here's probs vs Mets:
Mon: Lester (14-5, 3.64) vs. Syndergaard (9-3, 3.38)
Tue: Hamels (4-0, 0.79) vs. deGrom (8-8, 1.71)
Wed: Mills (0-0, 1.17) vs. Vargas (4-8, 6.96)
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 26, 2018
(Side note: oof on catching both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in a three-game series, eh?)
Mills, 26, was dominant on Friday against the Reds, and although his minor league numbers this year have been merely “encouraging,” the decision to give him another start is probably not just based on one big league outing.
Mills has been adjusting his style over the season to be more of an up-in-the-zone fly-ball-style pitcher. For a guy who works with five different pitches, it is at least not inconceivable that things would start to click later in the year – and maybe even more so when the big league pitching infrastructure can work with him on game-planning and execution.
You’ve also got to factor in that Mills, who’d just been acquired by the Cubs in the Spring of 2017 when he was percolating up with the Royals and on the cusp of a full-time big league role, missed almost all of 2017 with injuries. The fact that he would need some time to adjust this year and could be much more effective by the end of the season is not at all outlandish.
Don’t get me wrong: there is not currently an expectation that Mills has suddenly exploded as a guy you just HAVE to keep in the rotation right now no matter what. I’m saying only that it’s possible his performance against the Reds was not entirely flukey/driven by the Reds’ struggles.
Giving Mills this opportunity also allows the Cubs to give Mike Montgomery a little more time to get over his shoulder inflammation. Moreover, with roster expansion just around the corner, the Cubs can now effectively bring Montgomery back whenever (after September 1) and not have to send down Mills at all if they don’t want to. Joe Maddon even hinted that the Cubs might go with a six-man rotation for a bit when Montgomery is ready to return.