ST. LOUIS - Adbert Alzolay won't be pitching at Wrigley Field this season.
The Cubs' top pitching prospect will be shut down for the year with a lat injury he suffered in his last start on May 29.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer met with the media before Friday's game in St. Louis and said Alzolay won't need surgery but the organization is ruling him out for the season given the length of rest that's needed to let the injury heal.
The Cubs are obviously cautious with a 23-year-old and don't want to rush him back this season and risk any long-term damage to what they believe will be a promising career.
"It's a bad break for him and for the club," Hoyer said. "But the good news is it wasn't serious enough to need surgery. It's just the nature of the time we are in the season — he won't be able to come back and pitch."
Hoyer didn't specify exactly how long the inactivity period is for Alzolay to let the lat heal up, but with the minor-league season roughly half over already and the time he would need to rehab, build up stamina and arm strength again, it'd be too late to continue his development at Triple-A or join a pennant race in Chicago.
The Cubs haven't yet discussed a concrete plan for where Alzolay where pitch when he returns to a mound, but they are weighing instructional league, the Arizona Fall League and winter ball as options.
Before the season began, the Cubs looked at Alzolay as a guy that could potentially help the big-league rotation at some point as depth beyond their regular five starters and Mike Montgomery.
Obviously that's not happening now and the Cubs will need to look elsewhere if they need another starter.
"With him, we had our eyes on two different things: Really finishing off his development and whether he was able to help us," Hoyer said. "He was certainly trending in that direction. We're gonna be on the lookout for depth in the rotation, depth in the bullpen no matter what. This kinda underscores that a little bit."
Alzolay didn't exactly dominate Triple-A hitters when he was pitching, going 2-4 with a 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. But he did throw 4 perfect innings on the May 29 start before exiting with the lat issue and also began the year with a 2.12 ERA in his first three starts before hitting a speed bump.
Chris Gimenez — who spent the first two months of the season catching Alzolay in Triple-A Iowa before being promoted to the big leagues — thought the kid was about to break out.
Alzolay broke out in a big way in 2017, going 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 108 strikeouts in 114.1 innings. He was the Cubs' only representative on Baseball Prospectus' preseason prospect rankings, coming in at No. 95.
Now he'll lose a big chunk of a valuable year of development.
"It's a setback for 2018, but we don't see it as a setback for his career," Hoyer said. "We love the makeup, we love the stuff and we think he's gonna help us a lot in the future.
"But obviously there is a setback and he'll need his development over the course of the winter and then development in the minor leagues next year because he missed a lot of time."