Injury updates on Cubs pitchers Adbert Alzolay, Codi Heuer and what comes next
The Cubs starting rotation is back to full strength and the bullpen was on a roll before Friday’s windy afternoon at Wrigley Field.
So it can be easy to forget that two of the team’s biggest pitching weapons remain out of action. Codi Heuer will miss all of this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March and it’s unknown how much of a factor Adbert Alzolay will be in 2022.
Alzolay injured his lat muscle shortly before Spring Training started and the Cubs immediately acknowledged it would be a lengthy absence for the 27-year-old right-hander. He suffered the same injury in 2018 and wound up making only 8 starts that season as a result.
Alzolay has been sidelined for more than two months and is currently on the 60-day IL. The Cubs don’t have a timetable yet on when he might be able to return to the mound.
“He’s seeing the doctors again at the end of the month to get clearance on that,” Jed Hoyer said. “Once he sees them and they sign off, towards the end of the month, we’ll know more.”
When Alzolay returns, it will be interesting to see how the Cubs utilize him. He was a starter coming up through the farm system and won a spot in the Opening Day rotation last season.
But he has been much more effective as a multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen (1.84 ERA) than as a starter (5.19 ERA).
Heuer’s future role isn’t determined yet either, but it will be in the bullpen in some capacity — likely as a late-inning reliever when he is fully healthy again.
The Cubs acquired the 25-year-old righty along with Nick Madrigal in the Craig Kimbrel trade with the White Sox last summer. Heuer pitched well in 25 games on the North Side (3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2 saves, 4 holds).
He doesn’t expect to return to the mound until the middle of next season after an MRI revealed that his UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) was torn completely off the bone.
The injury was actually something he pitched through at the end of last season. He was receiving treatment late last year for what he thought was a bone bruise in his elbow.
Heuer took his normal time off from throwing in the winter but when he picked a ball back up and started trying to ramp up for the season, his arm wasn’t bouncing back.
He got several different medical opinions and took more time off before eventually getting an MRI. The day after the MRI, he was already in surgery with Dr. Keith Meister, an orthopedic surgeon in Arlington, Texas.
As if that wasn’t crazy enough, Heuer had to do all this in the midst of a lockout when he couldn’t communicate with the Cubs coaching staff. The only person affiliated with the organization that he could talk to was the team orthopedist, Dr. Stephen Gryzlo. Gryzlo was able to then communicate with the team, but this all happened very fast.
“A little bit of a disaster but at the end of the day, we got it done,” Heuer said.
He has been going through physical therapy in Houston but made a trip up to Chicago to check in with the team and be around the clubhouse on this homestand.
While the timing of his Tommy John surgery was not ideal, Heuer prefers to look at it as glass half-full. He said it was actually a relief to finally have closure for his ailing elbow and to know he was able to have some success last season pitching through the injury.
“It’s an awesome confidence boost for me, just knowing that I can get outs at the highest level even when I’m not feeling my best,” Heuer said. “It’s unfortunate. Obviously I would’ve liked to have taken care of it earlier if I knew but that’s just kinda how it happened.
“I got a full offseason before I went into surgery, so that also helped me a lot, too, in the recovery process.
Heuer won’t even pick up a baseball until September or October — seven months out of surgery. It will be a long build-up from there but he is under team control through the 2025 season so the Cubs certainly hope he will be a part of their future bullpens.