Right-hander Alec Mills was in the middle of an All-Star season in his first full professional season in the KC Royals organization in 2013 (after being drafted in the 22nd round in 2012). After starting the season in Low-A Lexington’s bullpen, he moved to the rotation on May 30th. Unfortunately, Mills made just three starts (the last coming on June 12th) before an arm injury (and surgery) shut him down until 2014.
“I pretty much knew it was serious” when the injury happened, Mills said following his most recent start with High-A Wilmington on Tuesday night.
Mills described his rehab as “a mental grind. It’s tough. You gotta go into rehab every day, work hard, work out. Four to five hours a day of nothing really baseball related for awhile. You just have to stick it out and eventually you’ll come out of it better.”
After rehab, Mills returned to the mound on June 17, 2014 with rookie level Idaho Falls. After seven appearances with the Chukars, he finished out the season back with the Legends.
Now Mills is in the starting rotation with High-A Wilmington, a place I thought he would be in 2014 if not for the arm injury.
Is he a different pitcher now after surgery and missing a whole year? “I think so. I’m trying to get it back to where it was before. Everyone wants to get it back to what they were. It’s the whole point. I think it’s a little different, but I’m getting there.”
Mills has made four starts this season for the Blue Rocks and two of them came against Myrtle Beach (the new Chicago Cubs affiliate). In his first start of the season (April 11th), he allowed one run on four hits over 5.1 innings. He struck out three. In his most recent start (April 28th), he allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks (both in the first inning) over five innings. He struck out four.
Did facing the Pelicans already this season make getting ready for Tuesday night’s start a little easier? It helps “somewhat. You know going in how you can get guys out, but we’ve only played them once. Later in the year, we’ll have a lot better idea.”
The first inning started innocently for Mills, getting two quick outs. Then the wheels started to fall off a bit. So much so that he was nearing his one inning pitch count and manager Brian Buchanan got a reliever warming in the bullpen. However, he limited the damage to just one run in the first.
“I just have to bear down, plain and simple. I just have to get guys out,” Mills said on his struggles in the first.
“I think something just clicked,” Mills said in regards to settling down after the second inning. “Something happened on the mound, started feeling better and I was able to command the strike zone a lot better and get guys out earlier.”
“Pitch count kept me from going back out for the sixth. I have to have a quicker first inning to get to the sixth. That’s all on me.”
It will be exciting to watch Mills pitch this season, as he progresses back to the pitcher who flat out dominated in 2013. Even though he isn’t considered a “prospect” keep him on your radar.