Four years have passed since Adbert Alzolay was ranked as the Cubs’ second top prospect by Baseball America, and only a season-ending right lat strain prevented him from making his major league debut in June of 2018.
That was a start of an array of injuries and inconsistencies that have given Alzolay, 27, a greater appreciation for getting an opportunity — albeit as a reliever — before the 2022 season ends.
“We have a lot of good guys with good arms coming into the big leagues, but they’re also thinking about me,” Alzolay said Friday before Marcus Stroman pitched 5 2/3 no-hit innings before settling for a 2-1 victory over the Rockies. “That’s a good point. I really think about it every time I work out and pitch. That’s one thing I always have on my mind.”
Since Alzolay made his major-league debut on June 20, 2019, when he struck out five and allowed one run in five innings to earn the win over the Mets, 22 pitchers have made their major-league debuts with the Cubs.
Two of those pitchers — Brandon Hughes and Manuel Rodriguez — pitched the final two innings to secure the win.
Alzolay is expected to be activated this weekend and understands the Cubs want to take a look at other potential starters, such as Heyden Wesneski, who will start Saturday in place of left-hander Wade Miley, whose start was moved to Monday at Miami.
“We’re building something,” said Alzolay, who made 21 starts in 2021 but allowed 20 of his 25 home runs to left-handed hitters and posted a 4.58 ERA in 29 games. “We’re trying to win.
“For me, if my role is best out of the bullpen or being a long guy, a guy who can throw in the eighth or close a game, I feel I have the weapons to do that. I feel this is better for the team and the manager.”
Alzolay was ready to earn a spot in the rotation until re-injuring his lat muscle in a bullpen session days before the start of spring training.
“Just one pitch and I felt it,” Alzolay said. “I knew something it that was going to take a little bit [of time].”
Alzolay posted a 6.75 ERA in four rehab starts with Triple-A Iowa but struck out 12 in 9 1/3 innings. He believes the latest rehab allowed him to strength all parts of his body as well as his mind.
“I always say if you practice in your mind and keep repeating, then that goes straight to your body because the mind tells the body to do,” Alzolay said. “I feel being able to keep that mindset, keep processing those thoughts, I sometimes I will close my eyes and imagine I’m on a big league mound and go through the motions on my mind.”
Until Ryan McMahon ended Stroman’s no-hit bid with a home run to center field, it looked like Stroman would receive a prize similar to the bottom of Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades champagne Jon Lester gave Alzolay after his first major league win.
Stroman, who earned his first major league win at Wrigley in 10 career games at Wrigley, praised the defense of shortstop Christopher Morel for keeping his no-hitter alive.
And Jared Young, making his first major league start, picked two low throwsat first prior to McMahon’s homer and hit a double for his first major league hit in the eighth.
“A surreal day,” said Young, who had 15 family members and friends celebrating his hit.