David Ross is wasting no time when it comes to the competition for the Cubs’ fifth rotation spot.
Alec Mills, Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay will start the Cubs’ first three spring training games, Ross told reporters in Arizona on Thursday. The three are competing for Cole Hamels' vacated rotation spot, with Colin Rea being an outside candidate.
Upcoming probable starting pitchers for the Cubs:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 20, 2020
Sat: Alec Mills
Sun: Tyler Chatwood
Mon: Adbert Alzolay
Chatwood is the favorite to win the job — Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy suggested as much last week. The 30-year-old infamously struggled with his command as a starter in 2018 and was removed from the rotation by season’s end. He bounced back in 2019, working as a long reliever and occasional spot starter.
2018: 5.30 ERA, 8.25 BB/9, 19.6 BB%, 95 BB in 103 2/3 IP
2019: 3.76 ERA, 4.34 BB/9, 11.4 BB%, 37 BB in 76 2/3 IP
Mills impressed in limited big-league action last season, sporting a 2.75 ERA (4.19 FIP) in nine games (4 starts). He stepped up big last September in place of an ailing Hamels, tossing 4 2/3 shutout innings in a heartbreaking loss against the Cardinals.
Alzolay made four appearances last season with mixed results in his two starts:
June 25: 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R/1 ER, 4 BB/4K
July 1: 2 2/3 IP, 10 H, 7 R/7 ER, 1 BB/3K
The 24-year-old missed most of the 2018 minor-league season with a lat strain and his career-high for innings is 120 1/3 (2016). Alzolay views himself as a starting pitcher but wants to help the team any way he can. He also admitted he could have an innings limit, but it depends on how his body feels.
“2018, I got hurt and then last year — including stand up games and all that — I probably got 200 innings,” Alzolay said last month. “Probably won’t throw more than [that in 2020]. Probably [have some limitations]. We’ll see. To me, if I’m feeling good, I feel great and I can keep going, I will.
“My first goal is stay healthy the whole time from here until October. And then just help the team in whatever they need me to do. That’s my whole goal this year.”
Even if Chatwood wins the rotation spot, Mills and Alzolay could make the Opening Day roster as relievers and make at least a few starts this season. Alzolay has minor-league options remaining, so he could also start the year in Triple-A Iowa's rotation.
Mills is out of minor-league options, so he'd be the leading candidate to fill Chatwood's role in the bullpen.