Adbert Alzolay Expected to Open Season on IL with Right Shoulder Tightness

Jed Hoyer announced Monday that righty Adbert Alzolay is expected to start the season on the injured list due to right shoulder tightness. The team is still getting more information, but Hoyer indicated that it won’t be a minimum stay. That’s less than welcome news for a team that has already lost reliever Codi Heuer for the season following elbow reconstruction and that desperately needs more velo in the rotation.

Alzolay’s role was yet to be defined, but this latest injury may be a sign that he’s destined for more of a bullpen or hybrid role. That was supposed to have been the case last season, when Alzolay was going to be eased into a higher innings count than in the past. His first 21 appearances were all starts, however, even as he battled a few minor issues through mid-August.

Following a mild hamstring strain that kept him out of action for nearly three weeks, Alzolay dominated across eight appearances in a long relief role to finish the season. He struck out 21 and walked just two en route to a 1.40 ERA over 19.1 innings as his fastball played up to sit at just over 95 mph. That’s roughly 1.5 ticks above where it was as a starter, not an insignificant jump.

It would be great if he could sit mid-90s in a starting role, particularly given how the Cubs’ average velocity figures to remain at league-low levels, but that might not be where Alzolay is most effective. That means finding someone else to hold down a rotation spot, whether it’s Justin Steele or even Caleb Kilian. Or, and this would be an even more attractive option if you ask me, they could pick up a young flamethrower from a team like the A’s or Marlins that is clearly looking to unload players.

Whatever happens, the main concern is that Alzolay has no structural damage and is able to get back on the mound soon.

Update: Bruce Levine tweeted that Alzolay will miss “upwards of two months” due to an issue with his right lat, a similar injury to the one that limited him to just 39.2 innings across eight starts in 2018.

As Alzolay told reporters Tuesday in Mesa, it will be a month before he can resume baseball activities. That puts him a week into the regular season, after which he’ll have to ramp back up for a few weeks before he’s ready to rejoin the team. A bullpen role seems even more likely given all of this information.

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