Cubs will have fourth minor-league option on right-hander Adbert Alzolay

Because of the ruling, Alzolay can be optioned to the Cubs’ alternate site or Triple-A without being forced to clear waivers.

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John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

PEORIA, Ariz. — Right-hander Adbert Alzolay will have a fourth minor-league option in 2021 after an arbiter ruled in the Cubs’ favor this week. Alzolay has been competing with right-hander Alec Mills for the fifth-starter job this spring.

While the Cubs were going to have to monitor Alzolay’s innings regardless of the decision, the additional option year would allow the team to start him at the alternate site in South Bend and option him to Class AAA during the season without having to put him on waivers.

Alzolay’s option decision might open another potential roster spot should he not break camp with the team. Non-roster invitee Shelby Miller, who has had a strong spring, might have an even better case to make the team.

Manager David Ross has held firm this spring that players who deserve to be on the big-league roster will be there, but for a young player like Alzolay who has had a taste of success in the big leagues, he’s not thinking of being anywhere except in Chicago.

“‘We love to compete,’’ Alzolay said earlier this spring. ‘‘So I feel like everyone is doing their part to go and compete for that spot, and then it’s just up to the organization what they want to do. But my personal opinion, yes, I feel ready to be a starter.’’

“I remember sending him down last year and he was like, ‘What are you talking about?,’ ’’ Ross said. “He believes in himself, which you want every player to believe in themselves and that’s a great thing. . . . I think that speaks to how these competitors’ mindset work. They feel like they belong. He’s had success and has built on that and is growing. So I’m glad he believes he belongs on the team. I believe he’s going to be a really good major-league pitcher.”

Romine progressing slowly

With each passing day, it appears more likely that catcher Austin Romine won’t be ready in time for Opening Day. Romine has been out with a right knee sprain and hasn’t played in a game since March 6. Romine signed a one-year deal in the offseason to be Willson Contreras’ primary backup.

Romine has been doing some light baseball activities but has yet to begin agility work, running the bases or on-field hitting. The Cubs are pleased with the job catcher PJ Higgins has done this spring, both with his ability to call games and his versatility. Higgins would be the next in line if Romine is unable to start the regular season.

“It’s still slow,” Ross said. “It’s getting better every day. The reports [are that] he feels better. I think there’s still some hesitancy to rotate on that knee and swinging. But he is throwing, he’s in the weight room. I think he’s able to do a few things, but the last thing you want is that swelling to come back in there and so the trainers have a plan with him.”

Minor-league player tests positive

A Cubs minor-league player tested positive for COVID-19, Ross announced Wednesday. According to Ross, all players and staff tested negative for coronavirus. Players in minor-league camp have been separated from the players in MLB camp this spring as part of the league’s health and safety protocols.

Earlier this month, reliever Pedro Strop was forced to be away from the team after breaking COVID protocols by dining inside a restaurant.

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