Mills the Back-Up Closer, Managing New Starters, Trust the Stache, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Mills the Back-Up Closer, Managing New Starters, Trust the Stache, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

That was fun last night. The Cubs won, so obviously, but there was something about following that one that felt extra fun. Just light and airy. Been missing that.

•   Trever Williams will get his own dedicated take for a fantastic debut (inherited runs being entirely attributed to the departing pitcher is one of the worst parts about ERA as a stat, unfortunately … ), but I couldn’t let the Bullets go without even mentioning him or else you’d think I was ignoring the most important part of last night’s game. Dude was not only really successful, and not only really good, but he was successful and good with his entire arsenal – four-seamer, sinker, changeup, curveball, slider – which was really something to behold. Whatever he was asked to throw last night, he executed it really well. The only exception was when he came back out for the 7th inning (kind of a debatable decision overall, given his labor in the 6th and it being the first start of the year, but a close enough call that I’m not beefing). He was asked then to face Christian Yelich for a third time, walking him on four straight really non-competitive pitches. That’s when I would’ve pulled him, but maybe he was still considered a particularly good match-up for Avi Garcia, who hit the hardest ball of the night off of Williams into left field for a single.

•   To me, it looked pretty clear that it was a wrap for Williams on that Yelich walk, and letting him go one more after that wound up leading to a comfortable lead turning into a tight game. I belabor this point because it’ll be something to watch with David Ross as he figures out how to best manage these new starting pitchers AND the innings jump AND not wanting to burn the bullpen too much too early.

•   If you had told me in early March that Alec Mills would not only not be in the rotation, but would be coming on for a very traditional save opportunity in the first week of the season, I would have wondered how on earth that was possible. But you know, it actually made some sense last night, given the guys available in the pen and the guys Mills was going to be facing. He came in, he threw strikes, he got the job done. And this is a good line:

•   Interesting, too, that it came against the Brewers, a team that has made so much hay the last few years by completely disregarding pitching roles at times, and just having guys pitching whenever they are needed and available. That’s what it was for Mills last night: Craig Kimbrel was down, some other setup options had already gone, and you want a strike-thrower who is great against righties in that particular spot.

•   If you wanted to pick nits, you’d say that with Adbert Alzolay going tonight, it would’ve been nice to have Mills available to go 3+ innings today, just in case he needs to piggyback. I’ll admit, that’s what first popped into my head when I saw Mills was up for the 9th. The counter to that, I suppose, is that Mills could still give you an inning or two tonight in a pinch, and most of the rest of the bullpen is going to be ready to go. So if Mills was the best guy for the spot last night, no sense in “saving” him for a situation that may or may not pop up tonight.

•   Speaking of setup options who’d already gone, how about Andrew Chafin facing four batters and striking all four of them out? Dude threw 19 pitches and 11 of them were either called strikes or whiffs. A lot of folks wondered why the Cubs sprinted to guarantee Chafin $3 million at a time in an offseason where they weren’t committing bupkis to almost anyone, and it’s clearly the same reason they were so eager to trade for him last year even though he was injured and they knew they might get to use him for only about three weeks: he’s quite good and the Cubs felt they could help him be even better! We don’t have enough data yet on his usage to know whether they were right, but the guy sure looked like a hoss last night, and he was sneaky always good with the Diamondbacks.

•   Trust the Stache:

•   Re-enjoying last night’s dingers:

•   The wider angle there on the David Bote shot gives you an appreciation for how and why he hits the ball as blisteringly hard as he does – that swing plane to meet the pitch is just *perfect.*

•   How about this shot:

•   The Cubs are a speed team now:

•   Nick Castellanos got screwed by a suspension, and it just doesn’t look great for baseball as a whole:

•   Meanwhile, Castellanos is still gonna Castellanos, and I love it:

•   Power banks and vacuums and curtains and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.