Cubs' Alzolay ready to step into big-league shoes
There's plenty of classic rock and not much new wave at Cubs spring training.
The player that might best represent the new wave and the Cubs' impending reload is pitcher Adbert Alzolay, who made his spring debut in Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Kansas City in Mesa, Ariz.
Alzolay isn't a kid, he turned 26 on Monday. But if all goes well, he'll be the new homegrown face in the Cubs' starting rotation this year, then he and top prospect Brailyin Marquez will be the anchors sometime soon.
One reason for optimism is Alzolay spent most of the pandemic summer at the Cubs' alternate site in South Bend, working to add a slider and refine his tools. In his final two big-league starts of 2020, he allowed 2 earned runs in 9 innings, with 15 strikeouts.
"He's gone through the prospect kind of journey, and now it's time to take that step to be a big-leaguer, which I think he is and I think he thinks he is," Cubs manager David Ross said. "At this point for him, it's about going out there and competing on a daily basis."
As an added bonus, Alzolay might benefit from having Jake Arrieta as a mentor. The two quickly formed a friendship this spring.
"Conversationally, he's on another level," Ross said of Alzolay. "The way he's carrying himself, the things he's talking about, his poise, his work ethic. Really the list (of positive growth) is long, to be honest with you."
There wasn't a lot to take away from Alzolay in Tuesday's game. He worked just one inning, hit a batter, struck out one and recorded to fly ball outs.
"To me, the pandemic just opened many doors for my development," Alzolay said, according to marqueesportsnetwork.com. "Having that two-month shutdown helped me a lot to see where I was with my mechanics, to clean up my delivery, to start working with new pitches and just overall my fastball command."
The Cubs pitching is off to a solid start this spring. After a seven-inning shutout of San Diego on Monday, Cubs pitchers took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Royals.
After Alzolay's first inning, Dan Winkler, Jonathan Holder, Dillon Maples, Gray Fenter and Brendon Little threw hitless innings. The Royals finally broke through in the seventh against Jake Jewell with a one-out single, then a 2-run homer by Edward Olivares.
The Cubs scored all three of their runs in the fourth on a bases-clearing, 3-run triple by center fielder Rafael Ortega, a nonroster invitee who has seen regular-season action with four major-league teams. Nico Hoerner had 2 hits, including a double.
Zach Davies is expected to start Wednesday when the Cubs host Seattle.