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Alec Mills’ unlikely road to becoming part of MLB history

Mills, 28, wasn’t originally supposed to be part of the Cubs’ rotation, but after Jose Quintana’s thumb injury in July, he made the most of his opportunity.

Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills is swarmed by teammates after throwing a no-hitter Sunday against the Brewers.
Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills is swarmed by teammates after throwing a no-hitter Sunday against the Brewers.
Morry Gash/AP

MILWAUKEE — When right-hander Alec Mills started his big-league career with the Cubs last season, his goal was to be himself and to help the Cubs win in whatever role that would be.

And he did that, making a name for himself as a swingman in the Cubs’ bullpen and became an option for their rotation.

But after José Quintana’s thumb injury before summer camp, the Cubs needed Mills to step up and take the reins as their fifth starter.

Mills took the job and ran with it and in Sunday’s 12-0 victory over the Brewers, he became the 16th pitcher in Cubs history to throw a no-hitter and adding to what has been a wild journey.

“I think at a young age, it was more or less, I just wanted to pitch in the big leagues,” Mills said. “I don’t think you ever think about no hitters or anything like that, you know? You have the cliche, bottom of the ninth, 3-2 count, two outs – stuff like that. Fortunately, it was not like that.

“Just thankful I’m here and it’s something that I probably never would have imagined my life.”

Mills isn’t a hard thrower, was never a Top 100 prospect and even had to walk on to his team at UT-Martin to play college baseball before being a 22nd-round pick by the Royals in 2012.

Even after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013 and being traded before finally getting his first real chance in the Majors last season, he never gave up the dream.

One of the baseball’s beauties is that when a pitcher is one the mound and in between the white lines, none of that matters. And once the 28-year-old Mills got his opportunity, he seized it.

“I think the one thing that stands out to me about Alec is that no matter what situation I’ve put him in this year, he’s answered the expectations that we have for him and answered without complaining,” manager David Ross said. “He goes out and does his job. He works hard. He’s constantly reassessing how he can get better and grow.

“I’ve seen him start off really well, go through a couple starts where he didn’t pitch as well as he wanted to. And then the last few have been a lot better. Back to what we expect from him and he expects from itself. … It’s just a guy you root for.”

Mills’ no-hitter became the highlight of the Cubs’ 2020 season on Sunday, coming on the heels of their biggest win of the season the night before in their ninth-inning comeback.

In the game, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks put together another masterful performance. One so good, Mills thought he had to top it.

“Watching Kyle is a blast every day,” Mills said. “And I kind of joked with him after his outing last night I said, ‘All right, I’m gonna beat you tomorrow.’”

As it turned out, he did.