DES MOINES, Iowa — Right-hander Adbert Alzolay has watched every Cubs game since he landed on the injured list to start the season.
Really, every game?
“Hell, yeah,” Alzolay said in a chat with the Sun-Times. “I’m part of the team, so even if you’re not here [in person], you need to let them know you are there. You have to watch your teammates play. You have to watch how the team behaves in order to always be connected to it.
Alzolay — five games into a rehab assignment, first in the Arizona Complex League and now in the Iowa Triple-A — is expected to join the big league team before the end of the season. There are plans to kick off a bullpen session on Wednesday, he said, and after that the team will have a better idea of their next step.
Manager David Ross told reporters in New York on Monday: “He’ll probably be knocking on the door here soon.”
Alzolay’s rehabilitation process took longer than expected. He tensed the lat muscle on his right side a few weeks before spring training. It was a familiar wound. In 2018, he spent just under four months on the injured list with a lat strain. This time, he didn’t even start pitching again until July.
“The organization and I, personally, really wanted to deal with this thing to make sure it didn’t come back in the near future or something,” he said. “So we let that muscle heal 100%. There were a lot of MRIs before they let me run to make sure everything was fine, that everything was 100% ready. That’s why it took a little longer.
During this entire downtime, Alzolay watched a lot of baseball. He said watching his teammates helps keep him “locked in” and gives him a clear goal to work towards. And he didn’t just listen to the Cubs.
Alzolay took something from every pitcher he watched, especially when it came to game plan and sequencing. He paid attention to how different pitchers attacked hitters in the National League Central – hitters he expects to face a lot in the years to come.
He reportedly picked highlights from Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who the Cubs beat 4-1 on Tuesday. Alzolay took note of how deGrom repeats his mechanic, letting him hit the same spot at will.
“I really like how he controls and commands everything on the glove side,” Alzolay said. “I feel like as a pitcher, as a right-handed pitcher, being able to command and control the glove side is huge.”
Alzolay also took advantage of his extra downtime to build muscle. He refined his release points to refine each of his throws.
“How can I enlarge it?” How can I shorten it? How can I make it more consistent? ” he said. “So it’s just learning more about my mechanics, my delivery, how I feel overall when I’m doing everything right with my arm. Being able to really recognize that and put it into practice really put me in a position where I can finish my shots better.
He expects his strength work and cleaning his mechanics to help him stay healthy.
Reliever Manuel Rodriguez rehabilitated with Alzolay at the Cubs’ spring training facility. He praised Alzolay’s progress and said in Milwaukee last month that Alzolay was “a completely different person.”
Alzolay threw his first start in rehab in Arizona in late August and threw four more with the I-Cubs. He allowed Columbus four runs in his second Triple-A game but held opponents to one run in each of his other four starts. He put into practice the lessons on the side of the gloves that he learned while watching deGrom.
“I feel like I was a little better in my last game with my slider and cutter down and far for right-handers or throwing it up for left-handers,” he said.
When Alzolay returns to the majors, his goal is simple: “Just enjoy the moment. Just being able to go back to Wrigley Field, enjoy that view. You just have to take all of that into account. I can not wait to be there.