Cubs’ Shelby Miller on tap for return from IL in Pittsburgh

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Miller Time: Pitcher’s return from IL on tap vs. Bucs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

PITTSBURGH — A Cubs bullpen that has taken a couple of significant injury hits in the last two weeks gets one back this week, with the return of right-hander Shelby Miller from lower back injury, possibly in time for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.

“I’m built up to go as many as they need me to and also to get one here and there if I have to do that,” said Miller, who pitched through the back issue during a rough three-appearance stretch after joining the bullpen in mid-April before it forced him to the injured list for the last four weeks.

“I feel really good. Really good.”

Miller, who joined the team in Pittsburgh Tuesday after three minor-league rehab starts for Triple-A Iowa (1.74 ERA), pitched four innings Friday in his last rehab start, allowing a two-run homer for the only earned runs allowed in the three rehab games.

That was the same day the Cubs lost left-hander Justin Steele to a hamstring injury, just five days after Alec Mills landed on the IL because of back strain — two key multi-inning relievers for the best performing bullpen in the majors this season.

It also makes Wednesday Miller’s fifth day since his last start, which makes him potentially important insurance against another short start by the struggling Trevor Williams Wednesday night.

Miller, a 2015 All-Star who has struggled with injuries since and who opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, was one of the Cubs’ best pitchers in spring training before giving up five hits and five walks to the first 12 batters he faced over his first two outings in April.

Miller downplayed the impact the back soreness had on the results.

“I had had it a little bit in spring training, and it kind of popped up and flared up on me little bit throughout those couple of weeks, and obviously we made the decision to go on the IL,” he said. “I don’t think it was a huge factor with the way I pitched, but it was probably just a better decision for the team at the moment.”

If he stays healthy and looks anything like he did in spring training, Miller could be a big part of the Cubs’ pitching depth and versatility going forward.

“I’m ready to go,” he said.”

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