Adbert Alzolay ready to seize his opportunity with the Cubs: ‘I know what I can do in this game’

Alzolay hasn’t pitched more than 120 innings in his professional career, but will be pitching big innings for the Cubs in 2021.

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“I’m pretty confident,” Cubs pitcher Adbert Alzolay said. “I feel like you, as a professional, you prepare for these moments, because these are the moments that you want to come in your career.”

“I’m pretty confident,” Cubs pitcher Adbert Alzolay said. “I feel like you, as a professional, you prepare for these moments, because these are the moments that you want to come in your career.”

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs are going to have a new look rotation in 2021. Right-handers Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams were all added to the staff this offseason and will be plugged into the team’s rotation.

The newest additions to the rotation provides experience to the team’s rotation, but with none of those starting pitchers lighting up the radar gun, this season provides a unique opportunity for right-hander Adbert Alzolay.

Unlike his rotation mates, Alzolay’s fastball is a weapon, and being the only power arm in the team’s rotation plans, he could be a major factor in 2021.

“He’s a guy that I think we’re all excited about,” manager David Ross said.

Alzolay turned heads after he was called up in 2020, and after developing his slider at the team’s alternate site in South Bend, things began to fall into place. There were questions on if he could stick on the Cubs’ roster, but he’s not trying to waste his opportunity this spring.

“I’m pretty confident,” Alzolay said. “I feel like you, as a professional, you prepare for these moments, because these are the moments that you want to come in your career.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good things from all those guys [in the clubhouse]. So to me, it was gaining that experience and working towards that goal. Because I know it’s there. I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of doing it the right way and keep working.”

After making his debut in 2019, last season was the first time Alzolay had seen any success in the big leagues. The 25-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six games last season, pitching both as a starter and a pair of appearances in relief.

Alzolay’s role this year will be interesting to watch as the spring goes along. He’s in competition with incumbent Alec Mills for the team’s fifth starter opening, but to watch his innings, the Cubs may also use him in other ways.

“The biggest thing is going to be communication between the players, communication with the training staff, strength and conditioning staff. Being creative and finding ways to try to predict when fatigue is setting in,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “In the past, it’s all been about pitch counts, and it’s been about innings and it’s been about all the stuff, we added new training methods to be able to determine whether or not a guy’s strength is decreasing.

“We have to be creative in ways to try to not predict, but like just to help us help guide us and when that critique may be coming in when a guy needs a break.”

Alzolay has never pitched more than 120 innings in the Minor Leagues and while it will be a balance managing his innings coming off the shortened 60-game season, there’s no denying that he is one of the Cubs’ best pitchers.

Ross hasn’t committed to anything beyond the traditional five-man rotation so far this spring, but the Cubs could use a six-man rotation or use Alzolay in a swingman role similar to last year to help manage his workload.

But the Cubs’ young right-hander only has one thing on his mind.

“My main focus the whole time is just being in the rotation,” Alzolay said. “I’ve been preparing my whole body, my mental game, to be in that position right now.

“At this point, I know what I can do in this game. I know what I can do with the ball in my hands.”

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