Chicago Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay’s 2021 debut came Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers. It featured both peaks and valleys.
Alzolay was one of the late additions to the Cubs’ big league roster as camp wound down. There had been a bit of speculation as to whether he could start the season at the alternate site, but manager David Ross ultimately handed Alzolay the keys to the final rotation spot.
It seemed the prudent move on Chicago’s part. The Cubs have been lacking in young arm talent, and Alzolay figured to play a vital role in the state of the rotation both this season and going forward. He had his chance to make a good impression Tuesday in the second game of the I-94 rivalry.
Cubs: Adbert Alzolay gave us a little bit of everything in his first start
Alzolay got off to a bit of a rough start. He got Kolten Wong to ground out for the first art of the game, but walked Daniel Vogelbach on just five pitches.
The next two plate appearances were more concerning. Alzolay got ahead of Brewers star Christian Yelich 0-2, but could not put him away and gave up a 105.8 MPH (in terms of exit velocity) single when his slider hung out over the inner third of the plate.
Just one batter later, Travis Shaw homered to left field after Alzolay tried to throw a backdoor breaker that once again hung in the zone.
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Alzolay began to settle into a bit of a groove after that three-run first inning. He retired the side in the second after giving up a single to Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez, then turned in a three up, three down inning in the third.
It looked like Alzolay was entering cruise control in the fourth, but Narvaez jumped on a second-pitch fastball and parked it in the seats in left field.
The Cubs right-hander wrapped up his outing by retiring the side in order in the fifth. He gave up four runs and four hits, striking out four in five innings of work.
Now, the line is not totally indicative of anything overly negative or positive. Alzolay did some good things Tuesday, elevating the fastball and working it both inside and outside to right- and left-handers. That’s certainly a good sign going forward.
But the slider – which was Alzolay’s best pitch last summer – was not in peak form. Too many sliders were middle-middle or middle-in. Alzolay seemed to lack some of the sharpness in break he displayed in 2020.
The Brewers made a lot of hard contact as a result. Milwaukee had eight batted ball events (BBE) of at least 90 MPH or higher in terms of average exit velocity when Alzolay was on the bump, per Baseball Savant. Many of those BBEs came off that slider.
The second-hardest BBE actually resulted in a double play after Vogelbach lined to David Bote in the fifth inning. Alzolay was somewhat fortunate to have other luck on balls in play.
It should be said the slider was not totally flat. He had some success diving it down and in on left-handers. But the pitch generally lacked command and late action.
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The Cubs will undoubtedly be patient with Alzolay, who needs to flesh things out a bit after a very middling season debut.