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Dodgers 5, Cubs 2: A tale of two pitchers, Adbert Alzolay and Dillon Maples

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The Cubs have decisions to make, and not much time to make them.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — So NOW what do the Cubs do with Adbert Alzolay?

It was clear that Alzolay’s start was a deliberate choice by management to look at him against opposing hitters instead of in intrasquad play. Thursday should have been Trevor Williams’ turn in the rotation, but Williams took the intrasquad start and Alzolay not only was sent out to face an opponent, but the defending World Series champion Dodgers’ likely Opening Day lineup.

Alzolay rose to the occasion. He was one strike away from throwing four perfect innings before he walked Justin Turner with two out in the fourth. Cody Bellinger drove in Turner with a double — Alzolay nearly had him struck out, too — and that was it for the Cubs righthander, who left to a warm ovation, as much of an “ovation” as you can get from 3,601 people.

Brendon Little entered and Will Smith singled in Bellinger, so Alzolay’s line doesn’t look great — 3⅔ innings, two runs — but that was one of the best outings by any Cubs starter this season. For example, this:

Here are all of Alzolay’s five strikeouts [VIDEO].

So what now? As we now know, Alzolay has a fourth-year option, so he can be sent down this year. That would likely mean Alec Mills is the No. 5 starter and the Cubs would probably keep Shelby Miller as a long reliever/spot starter.

But if the Alzolay we saw Thursday night is the real deal... maybe they should put him on the Opening Day roster.

The other decision the Cubs have to make is about Dillon Maples.

Maples has a slider that can be unhittable. Like, this one:

And then there’s the Dillon Maples who cannot control or command his pitches. Like, the guy who walked the first three men he faced Thursday night.

But... Maples got out of that inning with minimal damage. He retired the next three hitters — including former Cubs prospect Elliot Soto — on a popup and two groundouts. A run scored, but that was good pitching. So was the next inning, when Maples struck out the side. Granted, only two of the six hitters he retired were true MLB hitters (Corey Seager and Will Smith), but I imagine David Ross left Maples out there for two innings to see whether he could handle adversity. I would say he did.

BCB’s Sara Sanchez and I both are big fans of Maples and want him to succeed:

The Cubs have a decision to make here, too.

These decisions keep Ross’ head “churning”:

“I usually wait ‘til the season to not sleep too much,” Ross said on Thursday. “But, the last couple nights, it’s one of those, you wake up and roll over and then it starts churning in your head.”

Ross has spent recent days brainstorming with president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, the coaching staff and other evaluators in the front office. With one week until Kyle Hendricks fires the first pitch of the season vs. the Pirates, the Cubs are still staring down decisions in the bullpen and rotation, at second base and on the bench.

“I’ve commented a couple times in the small meetings,” Ross said, “where it’s like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know how much I missed out on last year.’ And how much work really goes into that and thoughts and questioning this and questioning that, and trying to look at every scenario. It’s been a lot, I’ll be honest.”

That’s all true. And they’ve got only a few days, and games, remaining to make those decisions.

You have probably noticed that this recap of the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Dodgers doesn’t have the traditional inning-by-inning summary of the plays and scoring. That’s largely because the Cubs offense was pretty much absent. They had just five hits and all but one were singles. The first run scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Kris Bryant in the fourth, and they added a second run in the eighth on this RBI double by Brennen Davis [VIDEO].

The Cubs will take on the Giants Friday afternoon at Sloan Park. Kyle Hendricks will make his final spring start before that Opening Day assignment. Nick Tropeano gets the call for the Giants. Game time is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will be carried live on MLB Network outside the Cubs market territory, and there will also be a radio broadcast on 670 The Score.

Poll

Should Adbert Alzolay be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes
    (430 votes)
  • 45%
    No
    (366 votes)
796 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should Dillon Maples be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes
    (481 votes)
  • 34%
    No
    (253 votes)
734 votes total Vote Now