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Cubs place closer on IL with arm injury, activate veteran reliever

10 months agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs will be without their closer for at least two weeks.

The team announced Monday that they placed Adbert Alzolay on the 15-day IL, retroactive to Sunday with a right forearm strain. The team activated reliever Michael Fulmer from the 15-day IL to take his place on the roster. It was one of two roster moves the Cubs made on Monday, the other being the addition of top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong.

“I think the deciding factor is just him being comfortable and going out there and being able to pitch with the ability that he feels like he can get guys out,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I don’t think he felt like he could really help us right now. That’s concerning.”

Ross had stayed away from Alzolay over the last week as he said the closer had been “dealing with stuff.” He appeared on back-to-back days on Friday and Saturday, pitching scoreless innings in a pair of Cubs losses. Saturday Alzolay allowed a hit and 2 walks. Monday, Alzolay admitted he had been dealing with the discomfort since “a couple [of] weeks ago.”

“That was the thing we were trying to manage if I could pitch through it. If I can pitch through it, we’re going to do it,” Alzolay said. “But knowing that we’re gonna have Fulmer back as well, he kinda gave me a little relief because I know he can hold it down for us as well.”

Prior to that, he had last appeared in a game on September 1, when he had a blown save against the Reds, allowing a game-tying home run to Nick Martini and a walk-off single to Noelvi Marte.

It doesn’t feel really bad but it doesn’t feel comfortable to go out there in a 1-0 game if I’m not 100%,” Alzolay said. 

Alzolay emerged as the Cubs closer earlier this season and ran with the opportunity. From July 5 to August 29, he converted all 18 save opportunities and had a 2.78 ERA in that time.

When Alzolay wasn’t being used, Ross turned to the general fatigue players have at this time of the year.

“When guys are dealing with stuff, you gotta give them a little bit of rest. Sometimes 4 days is better than 15,” Ross said on September 6, about a possible IL stint. “It’s that time of year. We try to navigate as best we can, we try to fill holes.”

Now, the Cubs will try to piece together the backend of their bullpen. Ross had solidified the last few innings of a game with Alzolay as closer and setup men Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. in front of him. Fulmer, who was a solid setup man before he landed on the IL, could work his way back into that role to give the Cubs another option.

“I think, yeah, we’re just trying to always set those guys up for the right pockets,” Ross said. “We’ll match up as best as possible and do the best with what we’ve got.”

Merryweather and Leiter Jr. could split duties as closer, depending on matchups. Merryweather picked up the final 3 outs in the Cubs’ 5-2 win on Sunday. Brad Boxberger was activated off the 60-day IL last week and could pitch in leverage situations after he has some more action under him. He was signed in the offseason and was expected to be a leverage arm for Ross, but a forearm strain limited him and kept him out for nearly 4 months.

José Cuas (1.17 ERA, 4 holds) has pitched leverage situations for the Cubs this season and could shoulder some of the load, too. 

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