Adbert Alzolay

Cubs, Adbert Alzolay dealt a tough break with season-ending injury

Cubs, Adbert Alzolay dealt a tough break with season-ending injury

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."

Before injury struck, one Cubs teammate thought Adbert Alzolay was 'ready to explode'

Before injury struck, one Cubs teammate thought Adbert Alzolay was 'ready to explode'

A lat injury came at a terrible time for Adbert Alzolay.

The Cubs top prospect had to leave his start Tuesday with the shoulder/back issue. He had notched four perfect innings before being removed from the game.

Alzolay probably wasn't going to be coming to the big leagues anytime soon for multiple reasons, but Chris Gimenez was ready for the 23-year-old right-hander to break out with Triple-A Iowa before the injury.

Gimenez — the veteran catcher who spent the first two months of the season with Iowa — just got called up to Chicago over the weekend and had a lot of nice things to say about Alzolay.

"That's a special human being right there," the veteran catcher said. "My goodness. Tremendous young man. Very, very personable kid. He works his tail end off, no doubt about that. Obviously we can see the arm is electric. Now is just a little bit more of a consistency thing, just cleaning up some things mechanically.

"He had a couple really, really good starts right off the bat and then I wouldn't say bad starts, but they weren't as good as he wanted them to be — the last 2 or 3. And then he identified something mechanically [Friday] in his bullpen session when I was there watching it.

"I think he's ready to explode, so I think he's chomping at the bit to get up here and if it wasn't for a little bit of rain, you probably would've already seen him. I would expect it to be very soon because he's a special kid."

Now obviously Alzolay has been injured since Gimenez made those statements, but a Grade 1 lat strain isn't too concerning overall. Jon Lester only missed 2 weeks last August for the same injury.

Alzolay could've been the guy the Cubs called on earlier this month for a doubleheader in Cincinnati as they were scheduled for 11 games in 10 days. But a rainout on the final day in Atlanta prevented the need for an extra starter, allowing the Cubs to roll out their regular rotation in Cincy.

Mike Montgomery filled in for Yu Darvish Monday in Pittsburgh and Darvish is eligible to return from the disabled list Saturday in New York if he's healthy enough after a bout of triceps tendinitis.

Alzolay's season has been hot and cold, as Gimenez pointed out. He was 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 17 innings over his first 3 starts.

But things went off the rails from there, as he posted an 8.20 ERA and allowed 35 hits and 17 earned runs in 18.2 innings over his last four starts prior to Tuesday.

Alzolay represents the Cubs' first homegrown starting pitching prospect worth getting excited about under Theo Epstein's front office and was expected to contribute to the big-league rotation as early as this season.

Cubs prospect Adbert Alzolay leaves Triple-A start with injury

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USA TODAY

Cubs prospect Adbert Alzolay leaves Triple-A start with injury

Cubs pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay is close to the major leagues, so close that Jed Hoyer outright said he'll be up with the team this season.

So when he leaves a start early, one in which he was doing well, question marks are raised. Alzolay threw four perfect innings and had three strikeouts on Tuesday when he was pulled after 60 pitches.

It wasn't an unexpected promotion, though. It was an injury.

Alzolay was pulled for a Grade 1 lat strain and will be re-evaluated in a few days. Typically that is a 2-3 week injury.

Alzolay has now failed to go more than five innings in five straight starts. At least Tuesday's outing was a good one. He had allowed 17 runs (all earned) over 18 2/3 innings in his last four starts.

After Tuesday's four perfect innings, the 23-year-old has a 4.76 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks in 39 2/3 innings for Triple-A Iowa this season.