With Cole Hamels still on the injured list (oblique), the Chicago Cubs are rolling with 4/5ths of their Opening Day rotation at the moment, while guys like Adbert Alzolay and, more recently, Alec Mills fill in at the back-end when and where they’re needed.
Fortunately, because of three scheduled off-days still left in July, the team could make it through most of the rest of the month with just their four regular starters (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Jose Quintana)/without the use of a fifth (after the six straight games starting Friday). But that’s not necessarily the plan:
No roster moves, leaves open possibility that Mills could remain in rotation for at least one more start and give other starters an extra day of rest with Thursday’s day off
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 17, 2019
After delivering a quality start against the Reds last night, Mills might’ve earned himself another turn in the rotation. And I, for one, wouldn’t be against it. Like I said, the Cubs don’t really need Mills to step in for another spot start (CORRECTION: They do have six consecutive games coming up after the day off tomorrow), but that doesn’t mean it’s without benefits.
If Mills does remain in the rotation until Hamels returns, that’ll squeeze in an extra day of rest for the remaining arms (after these six games), which, as I think we’ve all seen, could be beneficial both in the near-term and for the rest of the season. I’m open to it.
But even if Mills continue to pitch well, the Cubs will want to get Cole Hamels back as soon as possible. And on that front, we have some more good news to share:
Hottovy: Hamels threw a 25-pitch bullpen today with no issues. Next step is another bullpen (likely Saturday). After that? Maybe a sim game or rehab assignment.
If the veteran is responding well, “we don’t want to slow play Cole Hamels,” said the Cubs pitching coach.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 17, 2019
Cole Hamels threw a 24-pitch (Bastian later corrected himself) bullpen session at Wrigley Field earlier today at about 85% effort, and by most accounts it went perfectly fine. His next step is a bullpen session this Saturday and if that goes well, he could throw a simulated game or even get going on his rehab assignment soon thereafter.
With a little back of the napkin math, it sure seems like the absolute earliest Hamels could return would be the very end of July, but I’m willing to bet we don’t see him until at least after the deadline. Given the off-days, the other options on the 40-man roster, and Hamels singular importance to the rest of the season and (fingers crossed) postseason, rushing him back doesn’t seem wise.
For now, though, it’s good news as he continues working his way back without any issue.