MESA, Ariz. — Adbert Alzolay has done everything the Cubs have asked him to do. After a strong performance Thursday against the Dodgers to end his spring, what happens next is out of his control.
He has been competing with fellow right-hander Alec Mills for a spot in the rotation. Under normal circumstances, he’d be a no-brainer to make the Opening Day roster, but he’s no ordinary case.
“My main thing is to make the roster,” he said. “As a swingman or a starter right now, it doesn’t matter — I want to make the roster. But long-term, yes, I feel that I’m ready to start every five days.”
The Cubs learned Tuesday they’ll have a fourth minor-league option on Alzolay, 26, after an arbiter ruled in their favor. That means they can option and recall him from their alternate site in South Bend, Indiana, without having to put him on waivers.
But even if he starts the year in South Bend, it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll pitch in Chicago this season. The Cubs are high on his ability and makeup, and he’s sure to throw important innings at some point — although they’ll be watching his workload as they prioritize keeping him healthy. The 120 innings Alzolay threw in 2018 are still his most in a professional season.
“I remember sending him down last year, and he was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” manager David Ross said. “He believes in himself, [and] you want every player to believe in themselves — 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.
“He’s kind of trending in the right direction, in my opinion. That was a real glimpse into what I thought he looked like last year.”
Bryant likely not in outfield mix
Third baseman Kris Bryant’s versatility provides Ross with different options as he tries to make the lineup, but Bryant likely won’t move around too much. The outfield has several moving parts, and Jake Marisnick and potentially Cameron Maybin will be available outfield at-bats.
Still, Ross will keep the Bryant option open.
“I think I’ve seen him get work out there twice [this spring],” Ross said. “I believe I asked [outfield coach Willie Harris] to grab him twice out there. I haven’t put him in a game there. I’ve been really wanting to get Joc [Pederson] and [Ian] Happ and Marisnick and that group feeling good about one another communicating.
“I won’t say I’m not going to move Kris out there, but right now, it hasn’t been on my radar a whole lot. I know he can play out there, and I know he doesn’t need a lot of work.”