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Who will close games for the Cubs with Adbert Alzolay out?

There are several choices.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Adbert Alzolay was placed on the 15-day injured list September 11 (retroactive to September 10) with what was described as a “right forearm strain.”

That’s worrisome, because that could possibly lead to Tommy John surgery.

On the other hand, Michael Fulmer spent 15 days on the IL for the same injury and came back and threw effectively and posted a save Monday against the Rockies.

I’m thinking this is just a way to have Alzolay rest for two weeks. He’ll be eligible to return for the final road trip to Atlanta and Milwaukee, games that will likely be very important for the Cubs.

In the meantime, there will be nine games against the Diamondbacks, Pirates and Rockies. Some of them could result in save situations. Who will get the ball in the ninth inning with the Cubs in such a situation?

Michael Fulmer

The Cubs left Spring Training with Fulmer as the more-or-less designated closer, though David Ross never specifically anointed him as that.

Fulmer posted a save April 7 against the Rangers, but then blew one three days later against the Mariners (the Cubs won anyway) and five days after that in Los Angeles and then he was removed from the role.

He had several more bad games in April and May, but from May 28 through August 18 Fulmer posted a 1.60 ERA and 1.040 WHIP in 31 appearances, with 37 strikeouts in 33⅔ innings and a .171 opponents BA. That’s really good!

Then he got hit hard again and that’s when the Cubs placed him on the IL. His only appearance since returning was the one last Monday.

Fulmer has experience closing, as he posted 14 saves for the Tigers in 2021.

Brad Boxberger

Boxberger was also in Ross’ “circle of trust” when the season opened, as he was coming off a couple of good years as a setup man in Milwaukee.

Welp. That didn’t work; he started well but from April 22 to May 13 posted a 9.82 ERA and 1.909 WHIP in nine appearances with three home runs allowed.

Boxberger then spent more than three months on the IL with, yep, a right forearm strain. He has made two scoreless appearances since returning.

Boxberger has 84 career saves and led the American League with 41 in 2015 with the Rays. Yes, that is a long time ago. Still, if healthy, he could be a real help to the pen.

Julian Merryweather

Merryweather got absolutely torched in his first Cubs appearance (five runs in two-thirds of an inning), but then put together a run of 30 good outings from April 17 through July 1 in which he posted an ERA of 0.93, a 1.310 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 29 innings.

He’s currently on a 10-appearance run with an 0.84 ERA and 0.563 WHIP, with 16 strikeouts in 10⅔ innings. In between those, there were some bumps, but overall he has had a 1.1 bWAR season, which is pretty good for a middle relief/setup guy.

The strikeout rate is fantastic — 502 batters faced, 90 strikeouts. Unfortunately, there are also a fair number of walks — 30 — but he’s cut down on those recently, with just four walks in that current 10-appearance run.

He can throw 100 miles per hour. If he can keep it in the zone with movement, he can be very effective.

Daniel Palencia

Palencia can also throw triple digits, and has struck out 22 in 22 innings. He’s also walked 13, which is... a lot.

Personally, I wouldn’t use him in closing situations, but thought I’d at least mention him here.

Jose Cuas

Cuas came to the Cubs for Nelson Velázquez and immediately started issuing way too many walks: 11 in his first 10 innings. He managed to get through those 10 outings allowing just one run, though.

In eight appearances since then he has walked just one hitter among 26 batters faced... but has a 6.00 ERA.

So, which is the real Cuas?

I’m pretty sure David Ross is going to go to Michael Fulmer for most closing situations until Alzolay comes back, although Boxberger could get some due to his previous experience. Or perhaps you have a different idea. Let us know what you think.


Who should close games for the Cubs until Adbert Alzolay returns?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Brad Boxberger
    (25 votes)
  • 0%
    Jose Cuas
    (2 votes)
  • 20%
    Michael Fulmer
    (70 votes)
  • 50%
    Julian Merryweather
    (175 votes)
  • 0%
    Daniel Palencia
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (18 votes)
  • 16%
    Closer by committee
    (57 votes)
350 votes total Vote Now