The Cubs announced they’ve activated Marcus Stroman from the COVID-19 injured list. He’ll take the ball tonight against the Diamondbacks, with righty Michael Rucker landing on the 15-day injured list because of turf toe. Stroman hadn’t counted against the 40-man roster while on the COVID IL, and the Cubs freed a spot for his reinstatement by transferring starter Alec Mills from the 15-day to the 60-day IL.
Stroman signed a three-year, $71MM guarantee as part of an aggressive Cubs offseason. He has made five starts with his new team, tossing 26 1/3 innings of 5.13 ERA ball. Stroman’s typically excellent ground-ball rate is down to a more ordinary 45.6% in the early going, but that’s likely not much more than a sample blip. The 31-year-old’s velocity, strikeout and walk numbers are all in line with their 2021 marks, although he’s also seen a dip in swinging strikes.
In any event, Stroman returns to again take the ball every fifth day from skipper David Ross. He’ll be joined in the rotation by Kyle Hendricks, offseason signee Drew Smyly, Wade Miley and Justin Steele. That group looked like a concern heading into the season, and the Cubs rank among the league’s bottom ten in rotation ERA (4.45) and strikeout rate (18.5%), although they’ve been a top ten group at generating grounders (46.1%).
Mills was a significant member of the rotation last season, starting 20 of his 32 appearances. He posted a 5.07 ERA but threw strikes and induced grounders on over half the batted balls against him, setting him up as a back-of-the-rotation option. He opened the season on the injured list with a low back strain, and he’s also battled a quad issue.
Today’s transfer is largely a procedural move, as it rules Mills out for 60 days from Opening Day, not today. He can’t return to the big leagues until the first week of June, which didn’t seem likely anyways considering he’s yet to start a minor league rehab assignment. Mills recently threw a live batting practice session, however, the opening stages of a new ramp-up program.