Cubs

Alzolay impresses in debut, could be an answer to depth concerns

Cubs
USA TODAY

Prior to Wednesday, Adbert Alzolay hadn’t pitched against another team since March. That didn’t stop him from impressing in his 2020 debut.

“That’s a guy that’s gonna pitch big innings for us this season,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He’s a huge depth piece that we have, and you see tonight what he’s capable of.”

That’s especially important for a Cubs team that entered this season with depth concerns in its rotation and has two starters currently on the injured list in José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

Alzolay threw five innings of two-hit ball in Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Cardinals. He allowed an unearned run, walking one while striking out six. 

“He’s been focused and looking forward to that start,” Ross said.

Alzolay’s last spring training appearance came way back on March 6, prior to baseball’s shutdown. He was optioned to Triple-A shortly after and has been training at the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend since summer training camp.

In South Bend, Alzolay has been working on new pitches, namely a two-seam fastball that he said is giving him good results. In fact, he said he's gotten “a lot better” as a pitcher.

“I feel like the work we’ve been putting in for the last five months is really paying off right now,” Alzolay said.

Not only is Alzolay’s fastball working but he kept hitters off balance on Wednesday with his breaking stuff. Five of his strikeouts came on a curveball, the other on a changeup.

 

“The arm was super quick — you saw him keeping the hitters off balance,” Ross said. “I thought he mixed his pitches really well, was able to mix the changeup and the breaking ball in anytime he wanted.”

Ross credited the coaching staff, as well as the players, like Alzolay and Monday’s starter Tyson Miller, for putting in work in South Bend. The circumstances are obviously unique; the Cubs have seven position players there, so the pitchers see the same hitters frequently.

Alzolay said he keeps the same mindset on the mound, whether facing his teammates or another team.

“If you keep making pitches and you keep doing whatever you were doing down there, it’s gonna work,” he said.

For a team with postseason aspirations, that continued execution could go a long way for the Cubs pitching staff.

“We have a really good group right now," Alzolay said. "[Anytime] that I can just come in, help the team to win or help the team with whatever they need, I’m happy with that.”