Adbert Alzolay dazzled Thursday in long relief and now he’ll get the chance to ply his trade as a full-fledged starter. Exactly how long the Cubs plan to keep him in that role isn’t known, but they announced prior to Saturday’s game with the Mets that the 24-year-old righty would take the bump Tuesday against the Braves as they push the rotation to six men.
Lester, Alzolay, Darvish and Chatwood against the Braves next week.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 22, 2019
Kyle Hendricks played some light catch Friday and will miss at least one more turn through the rotation, though the Cubs have not laid out a public plan for his return. They had been discussing a six-man rotation anyway, so using both Alzolay and Tyler Chatwood there for the time being isn’t a surprise.
Alzolay became the first Cubs pitcher in the expansion era (1961) to strike out four consecutive batters in his debut, using his 96 mph fastball and wicked curve to baffle the Mets. But it was the changeup, a pitch that is still far from a finished product, that really electrified the Wrigley crowd.
“The key today was the pitch that everyone is hoping comes through,” Alzolay said. “[Not] my fastball, [not] my breaking ball, it was the changeup. Today was the best day ever that I feel throwing my changeup.
“I was throwing it against righties, against lefties, just striking out people with changeup. It was amazing.”
The youngster wasted no time out there on the mound, getting the ball back from Willson Contreras and immediately getting right back to work. That didn’t really sit well with veteran slugger Todd Frazier, who took his sweet-ass time before rocking Alzolay for a homer to lead off the 9th inning of Thursday’s game.
That bit of havoc had the prodigy shook, as he walked the next batter on four pitches before giving way to Steve Cishek. Alzolay will need to keep himself a little more composed in those situations moving forward, though allowances can be made for nerves in one’s MLB debut.
And if he can maintain that electric stuff while dialing in the fastball command just a little bit more…woo, doggies, it’s going to be fun to watch.