Chicago Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay has had a peculiar season–especially coming and going with the alternate site.
The 25-year-old figured to get immediate innings for the Chicago Cubs, especially considering the expanded rosters and added need for pitching following early injuries to Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.
However, Adbert Alzolay’s first appearance did not come Aug. 19 against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he got the start and threw five innings of one-run ball, striking out six for the contest. Alzolay had a strong relief appearance ten days later against the Cincinnati Reds, throwing a scoreless inning in relief.
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But the youngster stumbled after seemingly earning his foothold with the big-league club. Alzolay walked five and gave up a pair of runs in just 2 2/3 innings of work in a start against the Cardinals on Sept. 5, then gave up three runs in 3 2/3 frames against the Reds on Sept. 10.
Alzolay was sent back to the alternate site, and it remained to be seen whether he would play any role for the Cubs down the stretch.
However, it still appears Alzolay could be a pivotal figure in the postseason.
Quintana got the start in Tuesday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it was Alzolay who did the brunt of the work.
Alzolay came into the game in the third inning, allowing just two hits and one run in four innings while also striking out seven.
The Venezuelan looked utterly dominant at times, breaking out a sharp slider that overpowered Pirates hitters all night. Take this front-door offering to Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds, for example.
Alzolay even had to make his correction, noting it was a slider despite the tremendous amount of break.
The addition of the slider is notable because of how Alzolay used it, backing up right-handers and working it to both sides of the dish. It is just another example of the kind of pitcher Alzolay can be when command is no issue.
Granted, it is a small sample size, but opposing hitters have a .191 xBA and .266 xSLG off Alzolay this year (per Baseball Savant), numbers that point to his outstanding stuff and willingness to add to his arsenal.
Now, the question will be: can he replicate that dominance in the postseason?
Alzolay is likely to wear multiple hats, if necessary. He seems pretty well suited to being a long reliever in the event David Ross and the Cubs choose to use an opener, as was the case Tuesday night with Quintana. However, Alzolay might also be deployed in the middle innings.
Regardless, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect told Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times he is excited about the opportunity.
Alzolay’s emergence could be pivotal for the Cubs come October, particularly if guys like Quintana and Andrew Chafin cannot ramp it up in time. Perhaps he will even be joined by left-handed prospect Brailyn Marquez.
If nothing else, Alzolay is yet another impact arm capable of eating innings or bailing the Cubs out of high-leverage situations with his strikeout stuff. Then again, Alzolay has not had much time to get comfortable all season.
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Chicago’s bullpen faces questions with the likes of Rowan Wick out, and it will need pitchers to step up when called upon.
The stakes will be the highest they have been all season in the coming weeks: will Alzolay be ready?