Adbert Alzolay to finish season in Cubs’ bullpen as he nears innings limit

Alzolay’s 108 innings are the most he has thrown as a pro since tossing 126 in 2017.

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Cubs have been mindful of right-hander Adbert Alzolay’s workload since naming him a starter at the end of spring training, but they haven’t allowed it to hinder him from getting all the experience he could at the major-league level.

But as the season enters its final month and Alzolay gets closer to his workload limit, the team will have him work exclusively out of the bullpen to finish the season. His 110 1/3 innings this season are the most he has thrown as a pro since tossing 126 innings in 2017.

Alzolay was activated from the 10-day injured list Wednesday and tossed four scoreless innings and had four strikeouts in picking up his first career save in the 3-0 victory against the Twins.

“If you look at who he was as a pitcher last year, what he’s become this year is a significantly improved pitcher overall, in terms of what he’s able to do with the baseball,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Sun-Times.

“Nobody’s career ever transitions the way they want it to all the time. Yeah, there’s guys that do and they get in the starting rotation and they take off and they get it. He’s continued to learn and evolve as the season went on and that’s what I like about him the most.”

Alzolay’s first season in the Cubs’ rotation offered a little bit of everything with several successful moments, including a seven-game stretch in which he went at least five innings and allowed three runs or less. However, there were also some downs as he was 4-13 with a 5.16 ERA in 21 starts.

“I think the new role is just about trying to let him finish the season,” manager David Ross said. “Let’s get him through a 162-game season completely healthy.

“I think he’s had some highs, some lows. If you look at the numbers, I think he would want them to be better, the total overall numbers. But it’s a nice first season and the complete body of 162 and getting through that is a positive.”

The Cubs could have gone a couple of different directions in how they wanted Alzolay’s season to end. But ultimately, the idea of continuing to get him work while dialing back his innings was the team’s preferred course of action.

“We knew we were limited on how many innings we had with him,” Hottovy said. “So do we let him get two more starts and just let him go through the motions? Or do we let him have shorter stints and see if we can tick [the stuff] back up. Learn how to use more swing-and-miss stuff. How we can use the slider a little bit differently or maybe be more aggressive, things like that.”

The Cubs want him to refine some things with a plan for next season.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for him to kind of push himself,” Hottovy said. “Push himself going into this point of the season and not just say you’re going to make three or four more starts and that’s it. So yeah, I’m interested to see what it looks like.”

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