MESA, Ariz. — Adbert Alzolay hasn't made it to "The Show" just yet, but he's going to be awfully prepared by the time he gets there.
The Cubs' top pitching prospect missed much of last season with a lat injury, shut down after May 29 and managing only 39.2 innings.
Alzolay obviously couldn't throw while he was recovering from the injury, but that didn't stop his development.
The 23-year-old right-hander was still getting ready for the big leagues — watching video on a bunch of major-league hitters, mainly the guys in the National League Central that the Cubs face most often.
"The first couple weeks [after the injury], it was kinda hard at first, just being here in Arizona [away from most everybody else]," Alzolay said. "But after that, my focus was just getting back to the field to be healthy again. I spent the whole offseason watching video for the teams that we play against in the big leagues. I just watched all those hitters, what they hit in different counts.
"I've been learning a lot. Different types of counts, the pitches and all that I can throw against those hitters in different situations."
The idea came about initially from coaches, but Alzolay took to it immediately, finding a passion in readying himself for the majors even if he couldn't physically get out on a mound.
The lat is fully healthy, though he's currently working through another injury — a slight back tweak after slipping during a bullpen session the week before pitchers and catchers officially reported to Cubs spring training.
Alzolay said his back is "perfect now, back to normal" and he will throw from flat ground next week before getting back on a mound. In the mean time, he's trying to soak up all he can while talking to big leaguers like Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Willson Contreras.
Alzolay and Contreras are close — both Venezuelan natives during an increasingly difficult time for their home country. The Cubs catcher gave Alzolay one of the Venezuelan flag arm sleeves last spring, which the young pitcher wore proudly in camp a year ago and would considering wearing again if the leagues allow him to.
But first, he's just focused on trying to get to the big leagues.
Like all prospects, Alzolay spends a lot of time daydreaming about what it would be like in Chicago, pitching at a sold-out Wrigley Field. And he has plenty of reason to dream, as he was on the cusp of the majors last summer before he went down to injury. He's also willing to start or relieve, which should improve his chances on getting the call.
He'll have an innings limit this year and the Cubs will be cautious with their prized arm, but the big-league bullpen is filled with plenty of question marks and thus an opening for Alzolay should arrive at some point.
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