Adbert Alzolay has been on the cusp of becoming a major-league starting pitcher for some time, after being in the Cubs organization since 2013.
He’s 26 years old and is kind of at the “now or never” time of his career.
He threw very well against what was essentially the Dodgers’ Opening Day lineup Thursday evening. Perhaps that’s what made manager David Ross and the front office make this decision Saturday:
Ross makes it official: "Adbert's on the team."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 27, 2021
His role is yet to be determined. Said he thinks Shelby Miller will impact the Cubs at some point this season.
Ross says Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolay will start the 4th and 5th games of the season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 27, 2021
That’s after Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies start the three-game series against the Pirate at Wrigley Field. (Incidentally, that means both Davies and Williams will, for the time being at least, miss facing their former teams, the Brewers and Pirates respectively.)
Ross: Alec Mills will be in the bullpen to start the season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 27, 2021
Also of note: P.J. Higgins has not yet been informed that he has made the OD roster.
So, that would probably make the Opening Day pitching staff as follows:
Starters: Hendricks, Arrieta, Davies, Williams, Alzolay
Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Workman, Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, Andrew Chafin, Alec Mills and...
Well, Ross has previously indicated he might want a second lefthander in the pen. Of the 12 pitchers listed above, Chafin is the only lefty.
So that would possibly indicate that Rex Brothers, who has had a good spring, will make the team.
That would leave Dillon Maples on the outside looking in. We’ve been over Maples here many times, he’s a very polarizing figure. Everyone’s got an opinion about him, whether good or bad. I, personally, would like to see him stick around. If the Cubs decide to keep Brothers, Maples could be designated for assignment or traded, because they’d need a 40-man roster spot for Brothers.
They will need at least two other 40-man spots, for Eric Sogard, who is expected to make the team, and Matt Duffy, who the brass likes and who also is very likely to make the Opening Day roster. There is currently one 40-man spot open and the team can free up another one by placing Rowan Wick (who won’t be ready for a while) on the 60-day injured list.
This tweet hints that Maples might make the team:
We'll Zoom with Ross soon, but today's moves make the pitching staff appear to include:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 27, 2021
Rotation: Hendricks, Arrieta, Davies, Williams, Mills/Alzolay
Bullpen: Kimbrel, Workman, Winkler, Tepera, Chafin, Adam, Maples, Brothers (NRI)
Now, looking at that tweet and the other one from Bastian above (stating that Mills opens the year in the pen), it would appear that Maples is odd-man-out. But who knows? Maybe Mills gets traded before Opening Day.
Regarding P.J. Higgins, it might be that the team thinks Austin Romine might be ready by Thursday. Or, maybe they’re scanning the waiver wire for catchers. Higgins can hit, but defensively I think he leaves something to be desired. There’s a reason he’s 28 and has never played in the big leagues. I do not think Miguel Amaya will be promoted, as Jed Hoyer indicated before spring training began that they did not want Amaya to be in the major leagues to begin the season.
As always, we await developments.