Cubs taking different approaches with pair of young pitchers as season winds down
Sometimes, you just need a chance to reset.
For Tommy Hottovy and the Cubs that’s what they believe Keegan Thompson needs to return to the pitcher he was earlier in the season.
“I think it’s important to kinda hit the restart button and not go down a downward spiral that it’s tough to get out of down the stretch,” Hottovy said Sunday.
Thompson’s stint on the IL gives him the opportunity to get fully healthy and end the season on a high note. Earlier in the season, Thompson was used primarily as a multi-inning relief pitcher and found success in that role. He pitched to a 2.21 ERA in 27 appearances, then pitched to a 0.00 ERA at Triple-A Iowa while he was being stretched out.
When he returned to the big leagues and was inserted into the rotation, Hottovy felt that part of his issue was his recovery. He couldn’t put in all the necessary work in between starts to be ready and it was affecting him when it was his turn in the rotation.
“If you’re not 100%, if you’re not feeling quite great and the way you should, we end up cutting the volume down, you end up cutting the workload down just to be ready for the start,” Hottovy said. “I think we all want to be able to get the work in that we need to, that we feel like is gonna make him successful and then be ready 100% when that game time shows up.”
Being on the injured list will allow Thompson to put some work in without the pressure of trying to recover in time for another start. He also can work on some mechanical issues that have caused him to go on the injured list.
There were some mechanical problems that he was having that Hottovy, Thompson and the Cubs identified. To compensate, Thompson was putting more stress on his shoulder and that’s what caused the shoulder problems. The time away should help that.
“I think he’s gonna be in a much better place when he comes back,” Hottovy said. “One giving the shoulder a little bit of time to rest, continuing to work on the mechanical stuff that we wanna make him as efficient as possible and that should obviously relieve some of the stress of the shoulder.”
While Hottovy believes a reset can help a young pitcher like Thompson, he’s seeing that a light change in scenery can benefit a young arm, too.
After making the Cubs’ starting rotation out of spring training, Adbert Alzolay landed on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain back on August 14. When he was activated last week, the Cubs made it clear he’d be coming out of the bullpen to manage his innings.
His first outing out of the pen was effective.
Alzolay picked up a 4-inning save on September 1, striking out 5 and allowing 1 hit without allowing a run. He threw just 40 pitches and went right after the Twins lineup.
“Sometimes, starters get into a routine where they try to preserve because they’re a starter,” Hottovy said. “I think there’s value in having guys go through that at times and just remind themselves, like, hey I can be aggressive early, I can take us deep into games, attacking from pitch 1.”
That’s why this final month of the season is crucial for Alzolay, Thompson and the rest of the Cubs’ pitching corps. It allows them an opportunity to end the season on a positive note. That all starts with an aggressive mindset.
“I think that’s one thing we want all of our guys to focus on a lot this last month is being aggressive, not walking people, attacking the strike zone, getting strike one, all those things,” Hottovy said.