After losing the battle for the final starting rotation spot in spring training, Alec Mills has become one of the Cubs most valuable pitchers.
And as the Cubs begin focusing on 2022 and beyond over the final few months of this season, Mills is making an increasing case to be part of the club’s future rotation plans.
“It's a real comforting feeling knowing you feel like you'll get a consistent outing every time he takes the mound,” said Cubs manager David Ross after Mills allowed two runs in six innings Wednesday against the Rockies.
Mills spent all of 2020 in the rotation, memorably throwing a no-hitter last September against the Brewers. He began this season in long relief, making a spot start in April, before spending a month on the injured list from May to early June.
The right-hander joined the rotation full-time June 15 and, as Ross points out, has been a model of consistency.
Over that nine-start stretch, Mills holds a 3.55 ERA in 45 2/3 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a single outing, delivering back-to-back quality starts his last two times out, including Wednesday.
“When he's been starting for us, he's been really consistent for me,” Ross said. “I think like most starters, every once in a while, you may have a bad one.
“But all in all, you know you're getting some consistent strikes, innings, move the ball around."
The Cubs have been stretching out Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson in the minor leagues for rotation auditions down the stretch. Along with Adbert Alzolay, they could be part of the club’s 2022 rotation plans behind ace Kyle Hendricks.
Mills is another possibility for that group. In the meantime, he's focusing on what he can control while taking the mound every fifth day.
“For me to go out there and keep us in the game every time is really my main goal,” Mills said. “Obviously if I'm doing that a lot, it may lead to a better chance of winning that job.
“I'm trying to put my best foot forward as far as making them make that decision,” he added. “They make the tough decisions. I'll let them do that. I'm just here to help us win ballgames.”