With Kyle Hendricks on the IL due to right shoulder inflammation, the Cubs are going to need to fill his spot for at least one turn in the rotation. Having Monday off means they won’t need a spot-starter until June 22, so now it’s just a matter of determining who will get the job.
Mike Montgomery has excelled in that role in the past but he’s not been all that reliable this season and the Cubs already have three lefties in the rotation. Tyler Chatwood ran with his emergency start opportunity when Jon Lester went down and he seems like the leading in-house candidate.
But if the Cubs want to keep their bullpen intact while boosting their development rep a few notches, they could — and should! — opt for 24-year-old righty Adbert Alzolay. Their top pitching prospect has dominated over his last five starts, allowing just six earned runs and striking out 40 men while walking only three over 28 innings.
“Alzolay is on a real roll at Triple-A,” Theo Epstein said Saturday in LA. “And, honestly, we’ve been planning — even before this — to possibly give him a couple spot starts at some point over the next month or so, just to get his feet wet and also give our veteran rotation guys a little bit of a breather during a stretch of schedule where we don’t have a lot of off-days.”
All things considered, there’s really no reason to go with anyone else in this situation. Alzolay just pitched Friday and could even slot in a little earlier to push some of the veterans back a bit, or he could piggyback with either Chatwood or Montgomery. Another option, perhaps the best one, is not to choose at all.
If they were already planning to use Alzolay as a means by which to lengthen the rotation, the Cubs could call him up and still go with one of the swingmen as another spot-starter. That would make sense as the first-half finish line draws nigh and off-days are few and far between.
Everything with Hendricks seems precautionary, so this is likely to be just a temporary matter. If, however, he’s going to be out for more than the minimum 10 days, it’s a no-brainer to keep Alzolay around and maintain a stronger veteran presence in a bullpen that has been anything but stable so far.
Of course, that should change here in the next 10 days or so as Craig Kimbrel is now just a few successful rehab appearances away from Chicago. So c’mon Cubs, make the call to Iowa and bring Alzolay up for a start.