Since being recalled from the minors, Alec Mills has given the Chicago Cubs some intriguing looks out of the bullpen, playing his way into their 2020 plans.
It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs bullpen has been a major issue for the team in 2019. In fact, if the Cubs had any consistency from their pen, the narrative of the season would likely be drastically different. The Cubs have had to endure a whopping 29 blown saves – which undoubtedly cost the team any realistic shot at the postseason.
Chicago’s elimination number sits at just one in the NL Wild Card race, meaning a Cubs loss or Brewers win at any point in the next four days ends the team’s postseason hopes. Craig Kimbrel, the team’s supposed savior, has been an unmitigated disaster thus far. Need proof? Refer to what transpired at Wrigley Field last weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Prior to Kimbrel’s return, the bullpen had actually turned in an impressive run. A large part of the unit’s success can be credited to reinforcements from their farm system, and none one have been more impressive than Alec Mills.
Steady success for Mills
Since coming up from Iowa, Mills has been a steady force in a bullpen that was spiraling for Joe Maddon. At the time of Mills’ arrival, not only was Kimbrel hurt, but Brandon Kintzler was suffering from oblique discomfort.
Mills was forced into a high-leverage role that he wasn’t accustomed to, and so far, he’s thrived. Mills notched his first save and quickly followed it up by recording his first win last Monday.
On Monday, Mills was called upon after Cole Hamels and Steve Cishek both struggled. In a one run game, Mills did his job. He went two innings, allowing just one baserunner. The Cubs went on to win the game 8-2, but Mills’ effort wasn’t lost on his skipper.
"“What he did [Monday], he gave the game form again,” Maddon told NBC Sports Chicago. “Really good pitches and a variety of pitches to both lefties and righties. Give the guy credit, man. Every time he shows up, he does something good for us. And does it in a very quiet, professional manner. He’s outstanding.”"
Mills has pitched 31 innings in the big leagues this year, and has been impressive. The 27-year-old has a 2.90 ERA and a solid 3.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mills’ role going forward
With Kintzler headed to free agency and Kimbrel locked down for the next two years, Mills will undoubtedly have some real opportunities moving forward. We’ve already seen him enter manager Joe Maddon‘s circle of trust – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mills get more late-inning opportunities as the season wings down.
We waited all year for the Cubs bullpen to find some sort of rhythm. It just hasn’t happened. In the past, guys such as Pedro Strop and Cishek have been elite setup men, but this year was different. In the remaining games, it’s necessary to go with guys who have stepped up recently. Right now, Mills is one of few guys to bring any consistency to the mound. He’s earned the opportunity to get big outs down the stretch.