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Tyson Miller should start Thursday's Cubs game

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Because sometimes looking ahead to next year is important, too.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In a coin-flip sport like baseball, assumptions are often a bad idea. Even a terrible team has a 25 percent or better shot at winning any game, regardless the starting pitchers. Nonetheless, this article is being written on a Wednesday, with an assumption: The Cubs will win on Wednesday with Kyle Hendricks pitching. With that as a starting point, the Cubs should change their announced starter for Thursday to Tyson Miller.

In the years when NFL was important to me, pro coaches had an axiom they would use on occasion. To reward a team who had a particularly meaningful victory on Sunday, the head coach would sometimes reward the locker room by saying "See you on Tuesday." While the reality wasn't entirely accurate (teams still might expect a degree of film study. Injured players needed treatment), the comment "See you on Tuesday" limited the banging on Monday afternoon. If the Cubs win Wednesday’s game, starting Tyson Miller likely creates some mild disarray, but I believe would be long-term worth it.

Miller's major-league debut was a two-inning start against the Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader August 17. He was staked to an early lead, allowed two runs over as many innings, and the Cubs won 5-4. Whether "the next Miller start" is must-see viewing for you or not, sooner is better than later for his next opportunity.

At some point, looking ahead to 2021 becomes "not unwise." The Cubs’ first-place lead is a bit of a working margin. They're at the point where losing a game due to "taking a future-based gamble" wouldn't be overly problematic. The Pirates’ elimination number from a Cubs perspective is in the teens. The same with the Reds. The Brewers are close. The Cardinals and Brewers haven’t played at all this year due to pandemic-related postponements — they still have 10 games remaining against each other.

If the Cubs take care of business in 2020, they're fine. If a shortened outing by Miller decreases the win likelihood by 15 percent in a specific game, it becomes a learning experience. By now, Cubs fans know what to expect from the other starters, who are likely to get a look in the St. Louis series, anyway.

Is Miller worth a 40-man roster spot? Should he be in consideration for the fifth spot in 2021? Or would "second guy in Des Moines" be more applicable? Getting a further look at Miller gets that discussion rolling.

Tyler Chatwood, Jose Quintana, and Jon Lester are all free agents after this year, so a healthy chunk of the 2020 rotation won't be available next year. Tom Ricketts is as unlikely to "willingly invest" in high-end starters this free-agency season as he is to send both Cole Roederer and Ed Howard to the South Bend alternate training site this weekend. Because money. Getting an extra look or three at a potential 2021 rotation option is a luxury. Like NFL players getting a day off of practice.

Al did his job. When I told him he'd receive this article if the Cubs win, he asked the proper questions, in the proper order: "What roster moves will they make? Players have to stay in South Bend 10 days if optioned." I told him Grandpa Rossy gave me some hints.

Tuesday's bullpen choices were a bit odd. David Ross hinted, without saying who, a few players may have been unavailable out of the bullpen. If Duane Underwood Jr., Ryan Tepera or Craig Kimbrel were unavailable after a day off, any injury placement could be retroactive, if not used on Wednesday. If a reliever isn't ready to go, give them a full 10 days off. Using Miller, for a guy who isn't available anyway, seems a more practical use of a roster spot.

"Why not stick with Mills?" What I'm seeing is a desire by some to roll every single last start out of the regular rotation as possible. The bottom portion of the rotation is what it is. Mills ought to be the fourth or fifth guy in 2021, likely regardless. If Miller gets a start against Pittsburgh, it's a fair contest. If he needs a three-inning reliever? Mills can do that. Perhaps Mills would even be ready for bullpen use against the Cardinals this weekend.

Games in September 2020 for the Cubs are part closing out the division, part assessing talent for now, and part assessing 40-man roster spots for November. Winning the first two in western Pennsylvania allows the Cubs another opportunity to look at Miller with limited blowback.

For Friday, he can be returned to South Bend, with Justin Steele or Jason Adam getting a look. Whether these players should have a 40-man roster spot in November, eventually, becomes a salient question. By winning the first two games against the Pirates, they get the equivalent of the "See you on Tuesday” scenario. Mills becomes a middle reliever for a day, and a sore reliever gets time off.

Most of you will disagree with the idea of starting Miller on Thursday. I'm good with it. Sometimes, a game becomes about getting the offseason right. If the Cubs take care of their business, it’s all good, anyway. One start by a prospect shouldn’t blow up a season. If you want to improve the rapport in a clubhouse, I’d think “Because you guys took care of business this series, we’re trying Tyson Miller as the starter while you guys go for the sweep” seems as team-building as possible. Especially if Mills and Miller get a slight heads-up.

Poll

As of now, what is your opinion of Tyson Miller?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Not worth a start yet
    (18 votes)
  • 47%
    Developing, like any young pitcher
    (108 votes)
  • 41%
    I’m clueless about Miller
    (95 votes)
  • 2%
    DFA him
    (6 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now