Adbert Alzolay Should Get Legit Shot Starting Saturday, Could Brailyn Marquez Be Next?
Necessity may be the mother of ingenuity, but sometimes it’s just a mother—-er. That’s the case for the Cubs’ starting rotation, which seems to spring a new leak each time they get the last one plugged. Where’s Phil Swift with his Flex Tape when you need him, huh? That and a little bubblegum might be David Ross’s only chance to keep his staff together over the next few weeks.
José Quintana looked as sharp as ever despite an even more extended layoff than the rest of his teammates following a thumb-wrestling match with a broken wine glass that he lost badly. Though he was probably left in too long in the first his two appearances and stumbled at the end, he twice pitched three innings and looked ready for more. However, any hopes of him resuming a role in the rotation were dashed when he hit the IL earlier in the week left lat inflammation.
The Cubs really needed Q to return to a starting role because Tyler Chatwood came up lame in his last start — maybe literally — after spiking a pitch in the dirt and calling for the trainer. Though GM Jed Hoyer indicated the injury wasn’t necessarily season-ending, he didn’t do much to assuage doubt about Chatwood’s return. With Alec Mills making costly mistakes a bit too regularly for most folks’ liking, there’s serious need for someone to step up.
That someone will be Adbert Alzolay, who should finally be given the keys to the car after being allowed to do little more than back it out of the driveway to this point. Despite his status as one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects, not to mention a little MLB experience, he’s only been called up as the 29th man when the Cubs have played doubleheaders. That should end Saturday, when he’s expected to start one of the two games against and remain with the big club thereafter.
As much of a boost as that should provide, I remain frustrated that it took multiple injuries for it to happen. Not only have the Cubs been talking about being more aggressive with their pitching development, they crowed about how Alzolay was “gonna have an impact” at the MLB level either as a starter or reliever this season. Why, then, is his participation a matter of circumstance? You can’t tell me he’s not better than some of the guys the Cubs have been running out there.
Alas, I should just give up on trying to make sense of some of the personnel moves in which players with obvious skillsets are passed over for retreads that provide little more than expendable depth.
One such player is lefty Brailyn Marquez, a young man whose triple-digit fastball and wipeout breaking stuff was on full display for South Bend and Myrtle Beach last season. Still just 21 years old, maturity had been an issue for Marquez early in his professional career. He wasn’t necessarily fond of pitch tracking and putting in the work when it wasn’t his turn to start, but buckling down a bit in 2019 may be at least partially responsible for his breakout.
Though he’s worked almost exclusively as a starter and figures to remain on that track until he proves otherwise or the Cubs slow-play his development so long that they’ve got no choice, he seemed to make sense as a potential bullpen addition. After all, he’s been at the alternate site in South Bend this whole time and the Cubs had made public their desire for lefty relievers.
But it appeared as though a deadline dumpster dive was fait accompli when, as Patrick Mooney wrote ($) on August 22, “The Cubs do not view Brailyn Marquez and Burl Carraway as realistic options to help the major-league team this season.” Sure enough, the bullpen now boasts Josh Osich and an injured Andrew Chafin, the latter of whom’s surname perfectly describes what the Cubs’ personnel strategy is doing to my soul.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope on the horizon for those of us hoping to see a dynamic young pitcher to get excited about. Though it may just be the sun shining off of a discarded White Claw can, Sahadev Sharma now says ($) Marquez is “One name to not completely write off yet.” Saturday’s doubleheader would make sense, as the Cubs are likely going with a bullpen game and could bring him up as the 29th man, but additional injuries or poor performance could create an opening later in the month.
Look, I get that it’s difficult to entrust even one inning of work to a guy who’s never pitched above A-ball, particularly when the truncated schedule makes every single out that much more important. At the same time, I fail to see how taking a chance on someone with legit lights-out potential would be more detrimental to the team than sending Dan Winkler to the bump in the 8th inning following a 71-minute rain delay.
One way or the other, the Cubs should be forced to roll with at least one of their young pitchers this weekend and beyond, so let’s savor this small victory while we can.