The Chicago Cubs will soon switch over to a six-man starting rotation, giving their veteran-heavy pitching staff some much-needed relief in coming weeks.
There’s little question how much talent the Chicago Cubs starting rotation boasts. We’re talking about a group that has five World Series rings and 14 All-Star selections between the five of them, led by gritty veteran southpaw Jon Lester.
That’s not to mention Kyle Hendricks‘ 2016 ERA title – or the postseason accolades of Cole Hamels (as well as Lester and Hendricks). In short, this group is dripping with experience in big moments and are more than capable of carrying the team come October.
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But there has been a lot of ups and downs for the Cubs hurlers so far this season – stretches where they’re near-unhittable and other times where they can’t seem to eat innings and wind up turning the ball over to a less-than-adequate bullpen.
According to MLB.com Cubs beat writer Jordan Bastian, this group will look a little different next time through the rotation. Of course, Hendricks continues to work back from a shoulder impingement (although I’d be surprised if he made more than one start before the All-Star Break) – and he’s been replaced by right-hander Tyler Chatwood.
Chatwood took the ball on Thursday to mixed results. He hasn’t really been stretched out in a while and lasted just four innings, allowing three runs – two of which were earned. The good news, though, is that he walked only one – and carries a respectable 3.69 ERA on the year. The story that came out of Thursday’s game, though, wasn’t Chatwood – rather, it was the guy who came on in relief of him: Adbert Alzolay.
The Cubs’ fourth-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, came on in the fifth and twirled four innings of one-hit ball, striking out five. His performance wowed the organization enough to get him his first career big league start Tuesday against Atlanta.
"“That was really impressive,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think he said after the game that was the best changeup he’s had. Give [catcher Willson Contreras] credit as well. I think they both realized that his curveball had been fantastic the last three or four outings in Iowa, but it wasn’t last night. I’m sure the adrenaline had something to do with that.”"
I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect Alzolay to be quite that dominant every time he takes the ball, but his youth gives this experienced staff a nice shot in the arm in the final weeks of the first half. The Cubs have just one more off-day before the Midsummer Classic, so working in that extra day between starts could be a huge plus for the team down the stretch.
Aside from Hamels, none of the Cubs’ starters have been particularly impressive lately (as I watch Jose Quintana depart after allowing nine runs to the Mets on Saturday) – so Alzolay might be just what the doctor ordered to help get the rotation – and the team, as a whole – back on track.