Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay diagnosed with lat strain, ‘very disappointed’
Alzolay will begin the season on the injured list, his loss delivering a blow to the Cubs’ rotation.
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay cracked a smile when he was asked how his curveball had been coming along.
‘‘Oh, it was feeling really, really good,’’ he said Tuesday.
Of course, that was before he strained his lat.
About 3 1/2 weeks ago, Alzolay felt discomfort in his right shoulder during a bullpen session. He cut his work short and went to the doctor. The eventual diagnosis, he said, was related to a lat injury he had suffered in 2018.
The rest of the conversation Tuesday took a more somber tone. Alzolay will start the season on the injured list, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Monday. There is no timeline for Alzolay’s return, but Hoyer said the 27-year-old likely would be on the IL for longer than a minimum stint.
‘‘He’s going to come back stronger,’’ left-hander Justin Steele said. ‘‘And we’re going to not even know that he was injured. He’s gonna be dialed in and dealing. That’s just Adbert.’’
Alzolay said he had a platelet-rich plasma shot about a week ago.
‘‘It’s now just sit and wait until the PRP gets in there and works to heal the muscle and I can start throwing again,’’ he said.
It’s expected to be a few weeks before Alzolay can resume activities. And that’s just the first step.
‘‘I just feel very disappointed,’’ Alzolay said. ‘‘I feel that I have put in a lot of work to protect that area after I got hurt [in 2018]. And the offseason program that I was doing [the last] five months, I feel like I just pretty much wasted all that work.’’
Alzolay made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster as a starter last season. He showed flashes of his potential, even picking up a cutter a year after he developed a slider. But his consistency was uneven, resulting in a 4.58 ERA.
Alzolay also made two trips to the IL, one for a blister on his throwing hand in June and another for a hamstring strain in August. When he returned from the second IL stint, with little time to build back up and the Cubs already mindful of his workload, it was as a multi-inning reliever.
‘‘What he did last year, I was excited for the year he was going to have,’’ veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks said.
Alzolay’s absence changes the outlook for the Cubs’ starting rotation. Manager David Ross said Tuesday he was planning for right-hander Alec Mills to be a starter. That leaves one rotation spot open.
Steele and right-hander Keegan Thompson, who made their major-league debuts last season, could vie for that opening. Or the Cubs could add another starter to their roster. Injury concerns that come with a condensed spring training also make piggybacking starts an option at the beginning of the season to balance workloads.
‘‘I don’t know what the rotation looks like,’’ Ross said. ‘‘We’ll have that picture painted a lot better in a couple of weeks.’’
When Alzolay does return, it isn’t guaranteed that it will be as a member of the rotation. The Cubs could borrow from their own playbook last season and bring Alzolay back at midseason as a reliever, at least trimming the time it would take for him to build up his innings load.
‘‘Whenever I’m able to come back and pitch, it’s just up to the manager and the team [as] to where they want me,’’ Alzolay said. ‘‘I’m open for everything.’’
Alzolay is confident he’ll get the feeling back for the curveball he was working on this winter. He just has to get back on the mound first.