Cubs News: Alec Mills keeps stepping up when the team needs him

Alec Mills / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Alec Mills / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

It’s worth asking: where would the Cubs be without Alec M ills this season?

Called on for a spot start Friday, young right-hander Alec Mills didn’t miss a beat, stepping up and preserving the Cubs rotation heading into next week. With Tyler Chatwood sidelined with a back issue, the 28-year-old Mills was saddled with the loss, but still tossed six frames, allowing four runs – the big blow coming via a sixth-inning Christian Yelich three-run shot.

"“It’s not too often that you can scratch a starter and one of your other ones are ready to go,” manager David Ross said after the game. “And Millsy having just such an ease about the way he competes and his personality, it just made it really easy to pull that trigger without a ton of preparation for him. He started studying the scouting report, played catch and then he got in his routine.”"

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Through his first three starts, Mills carries a respectable 2.84 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Really, the home run from Yelich was one of the first well-hit balls we’ve seen against him this season. The soft-tossing righty has shown he certainly has the stuff to stick in a big league rotation – both physically and mentally.

This isn’t the first time he’s stepped up in the young season, either. Remember, Mills wasn’t going to be a member of this starting rotation. Then, Jose Quintana went on the IL and the Cubs looked to the University of Tennessee alum to fill the void in the back of the starting five.

"“I think I’ve preached to myself and I’ve said it plenty of times to you guys,” Mills said, “I’m just here to do whatever I can to help. I think early on in the season it was to fill in that fifth spot for Q, and tonight it was to throw for Chatwood when I had extra days of rest.”"

What’s he done with all this being thrown his way?

Two starts where he allowed a cumulative pair of runs over 13 frames and a proclivity for inducing weak contact. He still ranks in the top one percent of the league in average exit velocity and the top four percent in hard-hit rate, evidence of how strong a contributor he’s been to this point.

There’s no telling what the rest of the season will bring for the Cubs and Mills. Quintana should be close to re-joining the team, something that could prove to be perfect timing with Chatwood’s status uncertain heading into a stretch where Chicago plays nine games in seven days. If Mills continues to be a reliable presence at the back end of the rotation, Ross faces a much easier task figuring out a potential Chatwood absence.

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For now, let’s just enjoy what this guy has done. He’s kept hitters off-balance consistently and has been a ton of fun to watch. He embodies the Ross-led Cubs’ mentality: “Whatever the team needs, I’m in.”