Chicago Cubs: Adbert Alzolay putting his trust in Willson Contreras

Chicago Cubs (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Adbert Alzolay has made back-to-back quality starts for the Chicago Cubs, and he’s doing it by putting his trust in catcher Willson Contreras.

We knew heading into the 2021 season, there were going to be opportunities in the starting rotation. The Chicago Cubs let Jon Lester and Jose Quintana walk in free agency, and they traded Yu Darvish to the Padres for a package of Zach Davies and several prospects.

Adbert Alzolay has been waiting for his chance to prove himself in a limited sample size over the last two seasons. The 26-year-old made six appearances, including four starts in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.95 ERA while fanning 29 batters in 21.1 innings. He struggled with his command in that sample size, allowing 5.5 BB/9.

However, he’s starting to find his groove this season, especially in his last two starts.

Alzolay took the mound on Wednesday, trying to help the Cubs sweep the defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers – a tough ask for a pitcher with limited Major League experience.

The San Felix, Venezuela native, gave the northsiders five strong innings, allowing just three hits, two earned runs while walking one and fanning seven. He needed just 79 pitches to complete the quality; his second straight quality start to boot.

“I’m putting a lot of trust in Willy,” Alzolay said after the Cubs 6-5 win on Wednesday. “[He] has been the one guiding me during my games, trusting him, trusting his experience in this game, and executing my pitches. Sometimes we just think about getting strikeouts, but pitching for contact when we need to is something that I have been working on lately.”

The two battery mates have called a game that has yielded a .174 average against in 26.0 innings of work.

On the flip side, Alzolay helped the Cubs avoid being swept in Atlanta last week, pitching six innings against a potent Braves lineup and fanning six.

“It was huge for me that I was able to throw my first quality start in the big leagues today,” Alzolay noted after quieting the Braves last week. “As a team, I feel like we needed it. We haven’t been as good as everyone was expecting as starting pitchers, but tonight, I felt it was good, as a team for the starters to that I went out there, and I gave the team six innings.”

A big reason for his success, Alzolay has utilized his slider more often in 2021, quite a bit more actually.

Opponents are hitting just .111 off Alzolay’s slider, his primary pitch, which is something you don’t see very often. He complements the slider with a sinker-fastball and a four-seamer, with the latter pitch yielding a .143 average against thus far.

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Sent back to the alternate training site earlier in the season, Alzolay looks poised to remain with the big league club for the foreseeable future, especially with Jake Arrieta landing on the injured list.