Cubs News: Albert Alzolay sounds like he's poised for a breakout season

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins
Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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It's been five years already since Cubs righty Adbert Alzolay got some love on Baseball Prospectus' top 100 prospect rankings - but still only 27 years old, the Venezuelan-born pitcher has a key role to play alongside Keegan Thompson on this year's Cubs team.

Both are penciled in as the bullpen's long men as we gear up for Cactus League action to get started this weekend and, for Alzolay, it's definitely been a journey to get to this point. He got his first real look as a starting pitcher during the 2021 season and really struggled, evidenced by a 5.16 ERA in 21 starts, compared to his 1.40 ERA in eight relief outings.

Adbert Alzolay ready to embrace his new role in the Cubs bullpen

Last year, injuries sidelined him for most of the season. He didn't even take the mound until the season's final month - hardly what he'd envisioned coming off his first full year as a starter for the big league team. Now, once again healthy, he knows he has a new role to play: a key piece of David Ross' bullpen plans - and he's totally embraced it.

"Late in the game or as a long guy, it doesn't matter. I just have to find a routine where I feel comfortable and I'm not doing too much before coming out of the bullpen and getting into the game. "

Adbert Alzolay, via MLB.com

Alzolay has always had good stuff and given his success out of the pen in his career (2.32 ERA in 42 2/3 IP), I think he's poised for a monster year in a role that often goes overlooked and underappreciated. But if Thompson and Alzolay can eat valuable innings, the entire pitching staff could benefit - from starters to the late-inning weapons.

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He returned to the mound late in 2022, but made his presence felt, striking out 36.5 percent of opposing hitters and holding them to a .179 XBA. It was a small sample size, sure, but he's always had good strikeout stuff. Now, he's ready to unleash it as a long-relief arm for the Cubs.