This one happened only about four months ago, so you probably remember it well.
Adbert Alzolay had an up-and-down 2021 season, with two different stints on the injured list.
By September, of course, the Cubs were far out of contention and were trying out different guys in the rotation. This game was another planned bullpen game, and Justin Steele started. David Ross’ intention was probably to use Steele for only three innings or so, but Steele breezed through the Twins batting order. He issued three walks, but no hits until Brent Rooker singled with two out in the fifth.
Despite allowing just that one hit, Steele threw 86 pitches through five, so it was Alzolay’s turn, and he was even better than Steele. He, too, allowed just one hit, also to Rooker, a one-out single in the seventh. Alzolay didn’t walk anyone, struck out five, and finished the game throwing just 41 pitches in his four innings of work. It was a combined two-hit shutout and 3-0 Cubs win in just two hours, 28 minutes, which is about as fast as you can get a major-league game to go these days.
I am still of two minds about Alzolay, who clearly has talent. When you see him pitch like that, you think, “That’d look great in the rotation.” But then you look at this:
... and there isn’t enough of a third pitch. For Alzolay to succeed as a starter he’s got to develop a good changeup and use it more than seven percent of the ime. He showed it in this game, for sure. But if that doesn’t happen? He could be a quality relief pitcher. In this particular outing he was hitting as high as 96, which would play in anyone’s bullpen.
As always, we await developments.
This concludes this series on Cubs four-inning saves since 1995, which was also a kind of “let’s remember this guy” series, as many of these pitchers were in that category. Hope you enjoyed the series and Happy New Year!