Adbert Alzolay Has Completed ‘Prospect Journey,’ Now It’s Time to Find Role With Cubs

Even though you can’t really take much away from early spring training appearances, there was something prophetic in Adbert Alzolay being lifted after just one inning. In addition to the potential perils of stretching pitchers back out after the disjointed short season, Alzolay has never pitched 121 innings in any professional season and has logged only 142.2 innings over the last three years combined.

Manager David Ross discussed Alzolay’s future during his Tuesday start, saying the concern over his innings count would not keep him out of the rotation. It could, however, determine how often the Cubs deploy the 26-year-old righty and how deep they let him pitch into games.

“I think you’re going to see Adbert make starts during the season, and I think you’ll probably see him make relief appearances during the season,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “I think you could say that about 10 guys we have in camp.”

This is a collaborative effort and Alzolay is well aware of what he needs to do in order to get and stay ready. The stuff has never been in question — this is a man who added a slider at the alternate site in South Bend last year, then debuted it in Chicago four days later — so the real key is remaining healthy and effective. That could mean limiting live innings in Mesa for the time being.

“We have a plan,” Alzolay explained after his outing. “We just want to take it easy during spring training, you know? Because to be honest, the innings that matter are during the [season]. Here, it’s just like, just work, do my job over there and then whatever I have to work on, I know that I can do it all in my bullpen.”

With a rotation otherwise populated by soft-tossing veterans who get by largely on guile, Alzolay’s skillset stands apart. It’s not a coincidence, then, that he’s found a mentor in someone who’s used to being in a similar position. No longer the dominant force from 2014-16, Jake Arrieta is nonetheless familiar with moving past early injury concerns to become a great pitcher.

Perhaps more than anything, being up with the big club on a permanent basis should boost Alzolay’s confidence and allow him to establish a consistent routine for the first time. Since the Cubs don’t need him to get additional experience in the minors, it’s time to put him in the right spots to succeed.

“I’m just looking for him to continue to build off what we’ve already seen,” Ross said. “At this point for him, it’s about going out and competing on a daily basis.

“He’s gone through the prospect journey. 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, which is always very nice to see.”

Rather than think too much about what Ross thinks Alzolay thinks, I’m thinking about what happens when the young righty can go out to the mound and pitch without thinking.

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