Cubs’ Alec Mills nearing return, Drew Smyly estimates rehab timeline

Cubs right-hander Alec Mills stopped by Wrigley Field Thursday to check in and throw in front of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy in between rehab starts, as the team searches for answers to their pitching shortage.

Mills, who becomes eligible to return from the 60-day IL (right quadriceps strain) on Monday, is scheduled to make his next rehab start Tuesday with Triple-A Iowa.

“After that, I don’t know,” Mills said.

If all goes well in that outing, the Cubs could use him in the rotation.

In the past week, the Cubs have lost veteran lefties Wade Miley (left shoulder strain) and Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) to the 15-day IL.

Miley threw a bullpen on Thursday, but Smyly’s facing a much longer recovery process.

“The first three, four, five days, they just told me just to rest it and just do treatment on it,” Smyly said Thursday. “But then hopefully, by this road trip, we can start kind of pushing, and just kind of testing it out to see how close we are.”

He doesn’t have a set timeline to return, but his IL stint is expected to be longer than the minimum 15 days. Smyly said he’d dealt with a similar injury in his rookie season, 10 years ago. About four weeks after the injury, he started pitching in games again.

“Hopefully it’s a very similar timeline, where within the next four weeks, I’m going to be close to building back up,” Smyly said.

He was also younger then. Much of Smyly’s rehab process will progress based on how he feels each day. Oblique injuries are infamously finicky.

“According to Dr. [Stephen Gryzlo, the team orthopedist,] if you try to push it and come back too early, you’re just gonna re-injure it,” Smyly said. “It’s not really something you can push through. So he made it pretty clear that we have to just kind of put everything on hold for the time being.”

Mills knows something about unexpectedly long injury recovery. He originally started the season on the 10-day IL with a back injury. But after his first rehab start, he felt tightness in his quad.

“I was just working out after a bullpen, and it just kind of grabbed on me pretty good,” Mills said. “It was something that we thought, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it was at first. And then I tried to throw three or four days later, and it definitely was worse than what we thought. … It’s been a long process.”

Mills re-started his rehab assignment a month later. He’s made three starts with Triple-A Iowa, building up to 3 ⅔ innings in his last starts, almost 60 pitches. He hopes to throw about 75 pitches in his next start.

Lou Gehrig day

Major League Baseball celebrated their second annual Lou Gehrig Day on Tuesday, raising ALS awareness and funds for related charities.

At Wrigley Field, I AM ALS cofounder Brian Wallach and Team Gleason co-founder Steve Gleason were joined by their families to throw out ceremonial first pitches. The 50/50 raffle, with a $20,000 guaranteed jackpot Thursday, pledged half of the jackpot to ALS charities.

Cubs broadcaster Jon Sciambi is on the board of Project Main St., a charity created in honor of one of his close friends, Tim Sheehy, who lost his life to ALS. Project Main St. partnered with Obvious Shirts to create “END ALS 4 LOU” shirts in team colors for clubs across the league, which could be spotted on players and coaches during pregame warmups.

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