Although the Cubs weren’t yet ready – and still aren’t, in fact – to commit to another start at the big league level right now for top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay, he was NOT the choice to be optioned out as Craig Kimbrel arrives today.
Instead, Kimbrel will take the bullpen spot of Tony Barnette, who pitched a scoreless inning last night. Barnette is a big-league reliever, but the roster crunch is strong right now. He’ll be back at some point.
With Alzolay surviving this bullpen move, that definitely means he’s getting another start, right? Well, that’s still not necessarily. It’s entirely possible the Cubs could use him out of the bullpen in the coming week, and let Tyler Chatwood stay in the rotation beyond his start today. It’s also possible the Cubs could be planning to bring up another reliever very soon, and Alzolay will be optioned out at that point. It’s also possible one of Kyle Hendricks or Carl Edwards Jr. (each of whom threw off the mound yesterday) could return in the coming days and push Alzolay out.
Long story short, yes, Alzolay being kept up this time around does lean toward a suggestion that he’ll see more big league action in the coming days, but the Cubs have their starters all set up through the weekend. It seems most likely to me that Alzolay’s next outing could either be out of the bullpen this weekend – if a multi-inning spot pops up – or a start next week, if he hasn’t pitched and the need is there.
For now, I suspect it’s just about having the flexibility to use a live arm like Alzolay’s if the need is there, but not committing to send him back to Iowa just yet (which would mean he’d have to stay down for 10 days before he could return).