Adbert Alzolay Has Been a Pleasant Surprise for Cubs

Adbert Alzolay Cubs
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Chicago Cubs closer Adbert Alzolay has been a quiet, pleasant surprise in 2023. There aren’t many that know how effective and reliable he has become. With the support of his teammates and Cubs manger David Ross, he is becoming an elite closer and is one of the reasons the team currently finds themselves in the playoff race for at least a Wild Card spot if not an NL Central title.

Modest Starter

He spent six years in the minors as a starter working on his form, while also battling multiple injuries. After a couple of call-ups to the big-league roster in 2019 and 2020, he became a full-time starter in 2021. His 2021 stats were not impressive, holding an ERA of 4.58 and a 5–13 record. The Cubs’ offense didn’t help his performance stats either by scoring fewer than three runs in 10 of his games.

Lost 2022 Season

Alzolay was looking to be a very good contributor for their rotation in the 2022 season. However, an early injury put him on the 60-day IL with shoulder tightness. Only expected to miss two months, the injury kept him out until September 17. He did appear in six games, all in relief.

Move to the Bullpen, Closer Option

Adbert Alzolay, a pleasant surprise, moved to the bullpen in spring training in 2023, He performed well in 9 2/3 innings, showcasing an arsenal of his two-seam fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. This performance led the Cubs to discuss whether Alzolay could emerge as a closer option for them. With his move to the bullpen, he was seen mainly as a setup man, but they also saw that he had that closer mentality.

Alzolay Gets the Closer Job

Adbert Alzolay has been their closer since the end of May when closer Brad Boxberger was placed on the 60-day IL. Relievers Michael Fulmer and Mark Leiter Jr. also have saves under their belts. Fulmer, however, works as both a long and short reliever, and is currently out at for at least two weeks with a forearm issue. Leiter is seen as setup man, and has has been used in different situations, and can pitch the sixth through eighth innings. Through Thursday, Alzolay has 22 saves and a 2.54 ERA. The latest Reliever Roundup ranks the Cubs’ bullpen at No. 5. Alzolay, himself, has climbed two spots as a closer in their weekly ranking.

Confidence

Adbert Alzolay has been a breath of fesh air for the Cubs. It has really helped with his confidence. He previously had trouble utilizing his slider against left-handed hitters and his changeup against right-handers. However, the teams pitching coaches, Thomas Hottovy and Daniel Moskos see his confidence, and that he is not afraid to attack the hitters. Both have been working with Alzolay, and have helped him on foot placement and pitch choice, with apparent success.

His performance has helped the Cubs lock down many wins. A unique statistic shows that since Alzolay has been the primary closer, the Cubs have been on an unbelievable resurgence. After going 10–18 in May, they have gone 47–31. The Cubs are now in a playoff race, and look to overtake the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL Central title for the first time since the 2020 season. Alzolay’s current success and confidence in his pitching is a big part of how they got here, and will be key as it comes down to the wire.

 

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James Marshall

James Marshall

Jim Marshall has lived in Phoenix, AZ for 50 years. He is an avid baseball fan, but enjoys all of Arizona's local sports teams, including Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals and Coyotes. In addition to the four major sports, he closely follows the Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Arizona State Sun Devils. Jim's passion for baseball continues beyond the field as he is an avid collector of baseball memorabilia. His favorite athlete of all time is Baseball Hall of Fame member Harmon Killebrew. In addition to watching, reading and talking about sports, he takes time to travel and appreciate the great state of Arizona with his lovely wife, Patti.

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