Cubs News

Adbert Alzolay showing the guts — and emotion — to succeed as Cubs closer

10 months agoTony Andracki

Adbert Alzolay’s fist pumps after securing the final out are becoming legendary.

As are his high-fives in the Cubs celebration line following victories.

“Yeah, he gets pretty fired up and starts smacking everybody,” said Justin Steele, who came up with Alzolay through the Cubs system.

Alzolay’s manager loves the fire.

“Watching him and the fist pumps and he comes through the handshake line still pretty fired up — it’s fun,” David Ross said.

Alzolay admitted it takes him a couple hours to calm down and get all of the adrenaline out of his system after games.

But that emotion is a welcome sight for the Cubs as they watch their homegrown pitcher lock down the closer’s role.

Alzolay picked up his 10th save of the season Tuesday night on the South Side, striking out all 3 batters he faced in decisive — and dominant — fashion:

He then notched his 11th save Wednesday night, needing only 10 pitches to work a perfect 9th inning.

“[Tuesday] night was really impressive how dominant he was,” Ross said. “It just feels like he’s getting more and more comfortable in that. I think when you see the emotion, you realize how intense the moment is, how he continues to grow and handle.

“Internally when you’re working through things and you’ve had times when you’re not at your best and things don’t go right and you always know at the back end that everybody’s counting on you and you got all that internal emotion — to let that out is fun.

“I love emotion in our game. Continue to control that. As long as it’s harnessed in the right way, I love that. I’m sure you’ll see that grow and change as his career continues to evolve.”

Alzolay said he’s always “been a big energy guy” and the key for him was figuring out how to control that. He found what works best for him by learning from some of the experienced veterans on the Cubs staff.

“Talking to Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman — I feel like those two guys are a big part of it,” Alzolay said. “You see sometimes Stroman shows his emotions and then you see the other side — Kyle Hendricks is always the same guy in every situation no matter what.

“So just trying to take the big things from those two guys and get acclimated to my routine and see what works better. … I just realized I can wait until the end and then let [the emotion] all out when I record the last out.”

Alzolay, 28, is in his 5th big-league season after battling injuries and moving between the rotation and bullpen to begin his career as the Cubs figured out the best spot for him.

Even this season, the Cubs announced in Spring Training that Alzolay would be in the bullpen but he began the year working mostly multi-inning stints.

But there isn’t much question about what Alzolay’s role is now as his emotions and raw stuff have culminated in the makings of a shutdown closer.

He is 11-for-12 in save opportunities and has 7 holds this season to go along with a 2.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 45 innings.

“He’s got guts,” Ross said. “He’s got that doesn’t-care-but-cares [attitude]. It’s an internal want. You want the moment, you want the ball on the biggest stage.

“Being able to harness those emotions and execute pitches within that, not everyone’s built for that. He’s embraced that. I think he wants that.”

As the season has worn on, Ross has gotten a better sense of his bullpen and utilizes Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. as the top setup guys for Alzolay in the 9th. On Wednesday night, Merryweather pitched the 6th and 7th innings while Leiter threw a scoreless 8th.

And when Alzolay closes it out, he has started a new tradition this year — keeping the ball after the final out. He is saving them all at home and is in the process of getting them authenticated, though he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with them long-term yet.

But he does know what he wants to do when he’s at the field. He wants to close out games for his team.

“I like the big moments,” he said, “and I feel really comfortable pitching in the 9th inning.”

Don’t Miss Out On The Action!

Sign up for the Marquee Sports Network Newsletter today for all the latest Cubs news, plus upcoming Marquee programming and much more!

Newsletter Signup
Consent *
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.