What’s next for Adbert Alzolay in 2020?
For Cubs fans anxiously waiting to see Adbert Alzolay get an extended opportunity in the majors, they might get their wish this month.
Alzolay was called up as the 29th man for Saturday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals and got the ball for Game 1. He took the loss and pitched just 2.2 innings, but there’s more to his outing than the box score showed as the Cubs defense didn’t do him any favors.
While Alzolay will likely be returned to the alternate roster in South Bend this weekend, the Cubs have a need for pitching depth down the stretch as they make a playoff push.
José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood are both in the 10-day IL, with Chatwood expected to miss the next couple weeks to deal with a forearm strain. Quintana is nursing lat inflammation and could begin throwing again Sunday.
Even if Quintana returns soon, the Cubs will almost assuredly need to rely on Alzolay again over the final three weeks of the regular season. He doesn’t care if it’s in the bullpen or rotation.
“I just want to help the team in whatever spot they need me,” Alzolay said.
So far, the 25-year-old right-hander has only come up to the big leagues during doubleheaders. In his second outing in Cincinnati, he pitched out of a 2-on, 0-out jam and impressed the Cubs with his poise.
David Ross thought that was a great example of how Alzolay has grown and matured.
The young pitcher showed similar poise early in Saturday’s start against the Cardinals. In the 2nd inning, he worked around a leadoff walk and an error by Kris Bryant (on a potential double play grounder) to get back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to end the threat.
In the 3rd, the Cardinals loaded the bases with 1 out and Alzolay induced a ground ball to third base that could’ve been an inning-ending double play. But Anthony Rizzo couldn’t corral the throw at first base and the game-tying run came home. Alzolay lost his command from there, walking the next two hitters to force in another run.
“I think that’s the first time the youth showed back up a little bit,” Ross said. “Just got a little rushed. I think he was trying to do a little too much at times and got a little out of sync with his rhythm. The stuff’s there.
“…We have a lot of faith in Adbert. He’ll learn from this outing and continue to get better.”
Alzolay ultimately wasn’t able to pitch out of the last jam in Saturday’s start, but overall he feels a lot more comfortable with runners on base than he has been in the past.
“Last year, I was hesitant a little bit in those situations,” he said. “But now, I just go to the next hitter or the next pitch. I’m focusing on getting results and getting outs.”
Alzolay has been one of the top pitching prospects in the Cubs farm system for the past few years and made his MLB debut last summer. He’s spent most of the 2020 season in South Bend, where he’s worked to add a two-seam fastball and slider to his pitch mix and refine the rest of his repertoire.
His 7 walks this year in 8.2 innings show there’s still room for growth, but his tantalizing potential has also been on full display with he’s also shown his tantalizing potential with 12 strikeouts and only 5 hits allowed.
This September could be the springboard Alzolay needs to stake his claim to a spot on the playoff roster or sliding into the 2021 rotation behind Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks.
“As long as I’ve been in this organization, it’s been a veteran rotation, but I know that the front office and player development have really tried to take a good look at developing some pitchers,” Ross said. “I think Adbert’s at the top of that list right now, and a guy that we’ve looked at contributing to the big-league club.
“It’s really been fun to hear the hype, watch him come up, watch him have some success, watch him have some struggles and then continue to grow like most Major League Baseball players do and get better.”