Adbert Alzolay Lined Up to Make MLB Debut Saturday in Cincy

When Yu Darvish went to the DL with parainfluenza virus, many Cubs fans were hoping they’d get a chance to see top-rated pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay. Trouble is, the 23-year-old had just thrown 93 pitches two days earlier and wasn’t available. That should be different by this weekend, when the Cubs may need a little help for a double-header in Cincy.

Alzolay was originally slated to start this past Sunday but was pushed back to Monday — a double-header, no less — against Round Rock. The start was easily the righty’s worst of the season, as he allowed five earned runs on nine hits (three homers) and struck out only two in 4.1 innings of work.

But what’s more important for the Cubs is that Alzolay should be good to go Saturday on regular rest. That will be afford a break to a big league rotation that will be a little taxed by a run that sees them playing 11 games in 10 days. Once they’re through in Cincinnati, however, the Cubs fill an off-day sandwich with two meaty games against the Indians at Wrigley.

In case you can’t see the tweets above, Tommy Birch, who covers the I-Cubs for the Des Moines Register, is saying that he’s hearing Alzolay is a candidate to start of the Saturday games and that Iowa recently reshuffled its rotation. Birch is an absolute authority on the comings and goings in Iowa, so his word can be taken as near gospel.

And even if we just look at some of the nuance of it, this makes a lot of sense in terms of how the Cubs like to do things. Which is to say they like to have their guys debut in what should be a low-leverage situation on the road. Or at least we hope that’s the case and that the Cubs aren’t trying to pull out of another five-game swoon by that time.

Hypothetical future results aside, and despite how the NL West is making them look, Cincy isn’t a good team and should offer a soft landing for Alzolay. Not only that, but the crowd figures to be heavily pro-Cubs. Kind of like a home-away-from-home game for him to get a taste of the bigs prior to what should be a more lengthy call-up in September.

The Cubs don’t have any reason to rush Alzolay along given that all five members of the rotation are locked in for at least three years. They also want the young pitcher to work on his changeup in AAA to see if he can develop a starter’s repertoire. With a fastball that sits around 94,95 and a big curveball that he’s commanding better this season, being able to pull the string on hitters could really make Alzolay an ace-type pitcher.

He has looked like exactly that at times this season, though he’s still got a ways to go before he earns a more regular spot with the big club. On that note: Because this double-header has been on the schedule for a while, the Cubs won’t get to use that 26th man exemption for Alzolay. Not that it matters, as they are more than comfortable with that revolving door that sees the last couple spots on the 25-man rotating around once injuries crop up and reinforcements are required.

If you don’t already have tickets to the game(s) this weekend, you may want to get your hands on them soon. It’s not too often you get to witness an MLB debut, and this one has the potential to be special.

*Ed. note: I erred in writing this, as the Cubs will get to use the 26th man because the game was scheduled more than 48 hours in advance. Had a lapse in thinking there and got the whole thing reversed. If the second game of the double-header is scheduled more than 48 hours in advance, the 26th man is eligible for both games. If it’s less than 48 hours in advance, the extra player is only eligible for the second game.

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3 Comments

  1. Evan – Where are you seeing that the Cubs won’t be able to utilize the 26th-man option for Saturday’s doubleheader? As you said, it matters little given the way the Cubs make use of player options and the 25th roster slot, but I can’t find any information that suggests the 26th-man exemption is nonexistent for doubleheaders that have been scheduled for awhile.

    1. Total whiff on my part, I got everything backwards. They can use the extra spot for either game because it was more than 48 hours in advance.

      1. All good! I was prepping a piece on Alzolay myself and came across this… figured you knew something I didn’t. 🙂

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