What, if anything, the Chicago Cubs get down the stretch from lefty Drew Smyly is really anyone’s guess at this point. I’m not even sure it can be an educated guess. We can generally expect that guys coming back from Tommy John surgery can be an approximation of their pre-surgery selves within a year or two, but that isn’t always the case. Moreover, when there’s only a month left in the season and a post-surgery starter is going to be pitching in relief, it’s even harder to predict.
That is all to say that Smyly, now about 14 months removed from Tommy John surgery will begin a rehab assignment tonight with South Bend, where he is expected to throw an inning in relief. The Cubs will no doubt be evaluating him closely to see how he might be able to translate into their bullpen in September, with an extremely outside chance that he could be a playoff reliever, too.
When Smyly is ready to come back, the Cubs will have to clear up a 40-man roster spot to activate him – something they would also have to do to add any September call-ups who aren’t currently on the 40-man roster (speed man Terrance Gore and reclamation reliever Allen Webster being the two most likely).
For now, let’s just see how he does with South Bend.
More broadly, I’m just hoping Smyly looks fresh and healthy, and in a good spot to be an effective starter again by the spring. You can’t have too many quality starting options, and, if Smyly is one of them for the Cubs, they could have something of an abundance of projected starters this offseason, albeit a group with as many questions as names (Smyly, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Tyler Chatwood, Alec Mills, Mike Montgomery (and that’s without mentioning guys like Adbert Alzolay, Duane Underwood, and Jen-Ho Tseng)).