How Adbert Alzolay reacted to making the Cubs’ Opening Day rotation
The anxiety Adbert Alzolay felt as he walked from the training room to David Ross’ office made the walk feel like it was a million miles long.
In the offseason, Alzolay changed his whole routine – his whole mindset, really – to make sure he put himself in the best position to crack the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Now, with the regular season mere days away, he was summoned to Ross’ office and figured his roster decision — one way or another — had been made up.
“All the times that you’re going to the office you are kinda in between,” Alzolay said. “Right now, they have really hard decisions to make.”
In Alzolay’s case, there was a chance that he would start the season at the alternate site, especially when an arbitrator ruled he had a fourth minor league option. But, when he walked into Ross’ office, he received the news he had been hoping for.
“I’m happy to be able to tell you that you’ve made the team,” Ross told Alzolay. “All the work you’ve put in throughout this whole time, really, I’ve been able to see it now. I know what you showed in the game against the Dodgers was the quality that you showed me last year when you came to the big leagues with that new pitch that you have now. I hope you continue to work in the same manner you have been working.”
The news of him not only making the team, but also being part of the Cubs’ rotation, left Alzolay almost speechless.
“The only thing I said back was ‘I was so happy for this opportunity,’” Alzolay said.
When he left Ross’ office and was able to let the moment sink in, the first person he told was his wife, Diana. Then, he got a hold of his parents, Janik Lara and Alberto Alzolay, back home in Venezuela and delivered the good news.
“They were very happy because, more than anyone, my parents know all the work I’ve gone through to be able to be in this moment and I know that over there in Venezuela, they feel really happy for all these accomplishments,” Alzolay said.
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It was the payoff for over a year of hard work. It started at the alternate site in 2020 when he worked with Craig Breslow on the tunneling of his two-seam fastball and his slider movement. In the offseason, he changed his diet and, just as importantly, he changed his mentality.
“What do you need to do to improve, even if it’s just 1%, everyday?” Alzolay asked himself. “That way of thinking was really important to me because it really changed my focus and I started to think more like a big leaguer rather than to think more like that person that’s gonna work hard to get to the big leagues.”
He looked at the veterans in the Cubs clubhouse and mirrored their approaches.
“When I started looking at it from the lens of someone like, say, Kyle Hendricks, he goes every day and does his work, what he does before his throwing day, what he does during the game, his routine, all of that,” Alzolay said. “I think that helped me a lot to change a lot of parts of my game.”
The results paid off.
In his most recent spring start, he had 5 strikeouts against the defending world champion Dodgers. He struck out a pair of former MVPs in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, too.
What was most impressive about the outing, though, was that it was arguably the best start of the spring for Alzolay and it showed his moxie in being able to bounce back from a tough start to the spring. In his previous 2 outings, Alzolay had pitched 3 innings and allowed 8 runs, 7 hits, 2 home runs and 3 walks and had only 2 strikeouts.
“We feel like he’s trending in the right direction with all the work he put in last year and what he’s done this spring,” Ross said. “Bouncing back from a couple tough outings and it didn’t really phase him and coming back and continuing to work and continuing to develop and I think that’s gonna be a trend for him all season.
“There’s gonna be great outings, there’s gonna be some good outings and there’s gonna be some that aren’t so good. I think that’s every major league pitcher.”
And Alzolay will get to prove he’s a big league starter.
“It’s something that I’ve worked for,” Alzolay said. “I’ve always maintained my focus and I’ve always had it on my mind since I finished the season last year and since I arrived at spring training. For me, there was only one goal which was, first, make the team and [then] be part of the Chicago Cubs’ rotation.”