Although the 24-year-old righty has already clearly demonstrated that he’s got the stuff and the stones to be a big league starter, the Cubs aren’t yet committing to getting rookie Adbert Alzolay another start in the next turn through the rotation.
The Cubs haven't decided yet whether Alzolay will get a second start next week in Pittsburgh. With Kimbrel expected to join the roster by the end of the week, Alzolay could be in play for the corresponding move as one of the few pitchers w/ options (and the Cubs using 6 starters)
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) June 26, 2019
We’ll have more on Alzolay’s start later (4.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 4 BB, 4 K), but I want to note that, however good it was – even if it’d been better! – there was going to be an open question about whether he’d take another start because of Kyle Hendricks’ eventual return. The Cubs aren’t going to bounce any of the other four primaries from the rotation and they aren’t going to stick with a six-man rotation for too long, so at some point, absent an injury, Alzolay’s brief stint in the big league rotation had to end.
And if Alzolay wasn’t going to get another start anyway, I can see the wisdom in letting him be the guy optioned out to accommodate Craig Kimbrel’s arrival.
That said, it was always possible the Cubs could’ve moved Alzolay to the bullpen or could keep him – as opposed to Tyler Chatwood – as the 6th man in the rotation after Hendricks returns for a start or two. But as Wittenmyer notes, because Alzolay has minor league options, if he wasn’t going to pitch out of the bullpen at all, it becomes difficult to keep him on the roster to pitch once a week. Genuinely, I get that.
Of course, at some point, you simply have to ask whether you have the best options on the roster. As far as multi-inning relief options go – even if you’re keeping Tyler Chatwood in the rotation for now – it seems like Alzolay is a significantly better option than some of the other currently-rostered players. It’s a balance, because you don’t want to lose guys for nothing, but there does come a point (July sounds about right) when you have to decide whether you are trying to maximize organizational holdings, or you’re trying to win games at the big league level in the very short-term.
Even if Alzolay goes down this week, he’ll be back to contribute at the big league level at some point this year, one way or another. At least there’s that.