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Adbert Alzolay makes Cubs’ Opening Day roster, will start season in rotation

Alzolay will start April 6 vs. the Brewers. Right-hander Alec Mills will begin the season out of the bullpen as the Cubs’ swingman.

John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Adbert Alzolay came into camp with one goal in mind and that was making the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. It wasn’t going to be easy and with some difficult roster decisions looming, it looked like Alzolay’s time wasn’t going to come.

The 26-year-old right-hander has pitched in multiple roles, both starting and also coming out of the bullpen this spring. The flexibility would likely be the easiest way for him to crack the roster.

“My main thing is to make the roster,” Alzolay said Thursday. “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.”

Despite learning earlier in the week that he would have an additional minor-league option, which could hinder his chances of making the Opening Day roster, in his ninth season in the organization, Alzolay got the news he’d been waiting for.

“Adbert’s on the team,” manager David Ross said Saturday. “We’ll map out his role and get back to you guys on that, but I’m excited for Adbert.”

Alzolay saved his best for last in terms of his performance and against what was likely the Dodgers’ Opening Day lineup, he dominated over 3 2/3 innings, striking out five. It left a lasting impression in his manager’s mind, who gave him the good news on Saturday.

“He’s put in a lot of good work. It’s really shown,” Ross said. “He really had a great performance the other night against a really deep Dodgers World Championship team that had a lot of All-Stars. He went in there and kind of rolled through that lineup, so that was impressive to see and I think he’s earned this opportunity that he gets.”

Not only will Alzolay break camp with the Cubs, but he will also be joining the rotation as the team’s fifth starter. Right-hander Alec Mills, who was also competing for the job, will begin the season as the team’s swingman. Alzolay will make his first start against the Brewers on April 6 and will have an opportunity to build off a successful 2020 season. He had a 2.95 ERA in six games (four starts) last season.

The Cubs will still have an innings limit for the right-hander as he navigates his first full, Major League season and will likely shift from the rotation and bullpen throughout the year.

“I’ve definitely seen maturity,” Ross said. “I think what I’ve seen is a guy that is a lot freer walking around the clubhouse. Talking to everybody, [his] personality is out. Who he is really shining through, a lot of smiles. But when he gets on the mound, he’s doing work, he’s taking the feedback and asking the right question.

“He was extremely happy when I told him the good news and that that makes me feel good that when you get to tell somebody that and you know how much work they’ve put in and how much they’ve grown. … Making that Opening Day roster and getting that news is big and Adbert was fired up. It was nice to be able to deliver that news to somebody that you see put in real work.”