Cubs' Alzolay added new pitch to attack left-handed batters

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs pitcher Adbert Alzolay throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during a baseball game, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix.

    Chicago Cubs pitcher Adbert Alzolay throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during a baseball game, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/18/2021 5:20 PM

It's no secret Adbert Alzolay has been struggling against left-handed hitters this season. Lefties are slugging .607 against him, compared to .277 by right-handed batters.

He's trying to correct the problem by adding a cutter to his pitching repertoire.

 

Overall this season, Alzolay has thrown his slider 43.2% of the time, sinker 28.2% and four-seam fastball 19.6%, according to baseballsavant.com. Prior to the July 8 game against Philadelphia, Alzolay had thrown 11 cutters all season. He used the pitch 17 times against the Phillies and threw 14 against Arizona on Saturday.

"I got an opportunity to face more lefties today, put in practice all we've been working on during bullpens," Alzolay said after the game. "I feel my four-seam command was way better than my last game. My cutter and my slider were working today.

"It's coming along pretty good. I feel it was just a matter of time, knowing the pitch better, picking my spots to throw it, my location for the pitch. I feel it works really good with my sinker and my slider too, so it's been a lot of hard work to get that pitch going, but I feel super comfortable with it now."

Alzolay seemed to be getting better with each outing earlier this season. But since he developed a blister on June 7 at San Diego and took a turn on the injured list, he's been in a slump. Alzolay lost five starts in a row before getting a no-decision in the Cubs' 4-2 comeback win on Saturday.

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"It works because we're using it with the right guys," catcher Willson Contreras said of the cutter. "There's different swings and today was a good matchup for him. I think he threw really good today."

Arizona has the worst record in MLB, but Alzolay didn't allow a home run for the first time in six starts and both runs he gave up could have been prevented with some sharper fielding. So the cutter is likely here to stay, which would give Alzolay a pretty good pitch mix. He also throws a changeup on occasion.

"It takes a little bit of time to command the pitch," Alzolay said. "I knew I had it there, I just couldn't command it first. So for me here in the big leagues, I feel commanding your pitches is a huge key. I didn't want to use it until I learned how to command it first. I feel like the three pitches coming out of the same tunneling (slider, sinker and cutter) is what's making it a little bit different with lefties right now."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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