Cubs

When Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay makes it to the majors, he'll already be one step ahead

When Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay makes it to the majors, he'll already be one step ahead

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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Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

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USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here. 

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

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USA TODAY

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

Brandon Morrow’s comeback attempt has hit a bump in the road.

Morrow, the Cubs reliever and former closer, has what the club is calling a “mild right upper chest strain,” according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian added Morrow felt the strain in his last bullpen session and there is no clear timeline for his return.

The strain is the latest ailment to sideline the oft-injured Morrow, who hasn't pitched since July 2018 due to a series of arm troubles. The 35-year-old has undergone two elbow surgeries since then (November 2018, September 2019) before becoming a free agent this winter. He rejoined the Cubs on a minor-league deal.

Morrow entered camp optimistic the latest procedure did the trick to get his elbow healthy. The Cubs have been easing him into action — the right-hander is throwing one bullpen every four days. Morrow said earlier this month he’s experienced some aches and pains but attributed those to being part of the rehab process.

Morrow is listed as day-to-day, according to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. But considering his injury history — and the fact he was already unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster —  the Cubs will proceed with extreme caution. There's no need to expedite his return, mild strain or not.

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