Alec Mills was disappointed when he learned he hadn’t made the Cubs’ starting pitching rotation to open the season. But ask Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, and he’ll tell you Mills may be even more influential in his role as a swingman.
“You could look back at the end of the year and say a guy like him is going to be like the MVP of our pitching staff,” Hottovy said Sunday.
Mills has already logged his first save of the year, filling in for Craig Kimbrel after the closer had pitched in the two games prior. In the Cubs’ 8-2 loss Saturday, Mills took on the opposite role out of the bullpen, throwing 2 1/3 innings after the Pirates knocked Zach Davies out of the game in the second inning. Mills is also expected to start some games this season.
“The versatility and value that he provides is enormous,” Hottovy said. “When you have guys like him, that can do that, that are unselfish, that just want the ability to pitch and compete and give your team a chance to win, that's why you fight for guys like that. That’s the type of guys you want on your pitching staff.”
The Cubs bullpen as a whole turned around a bumpy Opening Day into a strong start to the season.
Mills was the only Cubs pitcher in their 5-3 Opening Day loss to the Pirates who didn’t issue a walk. But in seven games since, Cubs relievers have combined for a 2.03 ERA, second only to the Padres (1.19), according to fangraphs.com.