A handful of Cubs injury updates for your Tuesday mid-day …
Wade Miley (elbow) is set to throw a bullpen in Chicago today, which is actually pretty meaningful. As a guy is actively rehabbing from an injury or building up to the season, he’d be in Arizona at the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa. When the season has already started, and a pitcher gets closer to a minor league rehab stint, you often see them come join the big league team so the staff there can work with/evaluate where things are. If things look good, the plan can be laid out for the return/debut process.
In other words, had I to guess where Miley is in his build-back-up, he’s probably gonna throw for the coaches today, see how he feels tomorrow, and if he feels/looks good, he could either head out later this week for a minor league rehab stint at South Bend or Iowa, or he could stick around with the big league team to throw some live BP sessions first. It’s possible the Cubs would send him back to Arizona to get his first game action in an Extended Spring Training game or some other simulated game, but I tend to think if he’s coming to Chicago to throw today, it’s probably a prelude to a minor league rehab stint.
If it plays out that way, you could ballpark a couple rehab outings (30 pitches and then 50-ish pitches?) before Miley would be, at the earliest, ready to debut with the big league Cubs. That would put it right around the flip of the calendar from April to May – roughly the estimate back when the elbow issue popped up – and right around the time the roster shrinks from 28 to 26. Things are about to get really crunched.
That’s also because Alec Mills (lower back) is probably close to a rehab stint of his own. He’s set to throw live BP in Arizona today, and that might be his final checkpoint before heading out to a minor league rehab start (maybe as soon as Thursday?). Mills is already stretched out to 70-ish pitches, so it’s possible he would get just one rehab start before re-joining the big league team. If so, and if he made that start on Thursday, he would be on schedule to take the 5th starter spot the next turn through the rotation. Presently, no one is announced for Thursday’s game, but that is where Mark Leiter Jr. would be if he got another start.
Leiter really did look great in those first two innings in Colorado, but once the Rockies had seen all his pitches and the lineup turned over, it was ugly. Maybe the Cubs will try to get two or three innings, tops, out of him on Thursday against the Pirates? Then Mills takes the next start in that spot?
Lastly, Andrelton Simmons (shoulder) is also set to do some live batting practice today in Arizona. His shoulder is about 85-90%, according to David Ross, but a recent setback with his finger is what slowed him down on the hitting side. He will almost certainly get a two or three-day minor league rehab assignment before being activated, so I wouldn’t look for him to join the Cubs until right around that same late-April/early-May range we’re looking at for Miley. Again, roster crunch looms.
Whenever Simmons is ready to go, I suspect whatever level of regularity he was going to be starting out of the gate has probably already changed, with Nico Hoerner showing out so well defensively at shortstop. You still want Simmons’ elite glove in the mix – assuming he can still defend at that level – and you still want to see Hoerner moving around to optimize the defense and the match-ups, but you’re not going to bounce him completely from shortstop at this point. It’s much more valuable long-term to keep getting Hoerner reps there and finding out more about just how good he can be there defensively.