Cubs News: Adbert Alzolay’s breakout clarifies the 2021 rotation picture

A revamped arsenal has turned Adbert Alzolay into a real weapon for the Cubs.

The big knock against Theo Epstein’s regime, which is nearing its tenth year, is its lack of homegrown, impact pitching. The Chicago Cubs have poured tens of millions of dollars into free agent arms to mixed results. But in recent weeks, one guy has been stepping up in a big way.

Right-hander Adbert Alzolay worked at the team’s alternate site in South Bend, changing some grips and fine-tuning his mechanics in hopes of shoring up the pitching staff. On Sunday, he kept the White Sox off-balance, allowing just one earned run over five frames of eight-strikeout baseball.

“You’ve got some power in that lineup,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “You see how quickly that team can score some runs. He kept them at bay pretty much the whole day early on. I thought the tempo was great. Really good performance from him.”

His new-look slider has helped him elevate his game at a perfect time. We all know about the inconsistencies this group has demonstrated throughout the abbreviated 60-game regular season. Having Alzolay in his back pocket could prove to be a real difference-maker for Ross as the postseason begins.

Chicago, the three-seed in the National League, will host the six-seed Miami Marlins this week in the three-game Wild Card Series. We know Ross will go with Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks in the first two games against the Fish, but there has been little shared regarding the team’s plan for a potential win-or-go-home Game 3.

Now, at face value, you’d assume Jon Lester gets the ball. This guy is one of the game’s best clutch performers and has a Cooperstown-worthy postseason resume. But Miami performed far better against southpaws this season as opposed to righties (.775 OPS v .673 OPS).

Even if Lester does get the ball on Friday, I’d imagine Alzolay is one of the first guys out of the bullpen. Over his last nine innings, he’s punched out 15 batters and allowed just two runs. He’s carrying a lot of confidence, which could make a big difference for a guy who’s relatively inexperienced at the big league level.

“I can say it’s pretty high right now,” Alzolay said. “To me, it will mean a lot if I get the opportunity to be part of the 28-man roster for the postseason.”

Next: Despite late surge, offensive changes are coming for Cubs

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With 16 teams headed to the postseason and a three-game first-round series, anything can happen. With Alzolay locked in, the Cubs have a valuable weapon not only heading into October, but it looks like they’ll have another guy to pencil in alongside Hendricks and Darvish in the rotation next spring.