Alzolay makes Cubs rotation, Mills to bullpen


Cubs manager David Ross said Friday Adbert Alzolay "looked like a major league starter to me" in his outing Thursday against the Dodgers. 

Now it's official.

Ross named Alzolay the Cubs' No. 5 starter on Saturday. The 26-year-old will join the rotation behind Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies and Trevor Williams.

Alec Mills will join the bullpen.

Alzolay is lined up to make his season debut April 6 against the Brewers. Coincidentally, it was Milwaukee that Mills threw a no-hitter against last season.

Ross said Saturday Alzolay joining the rotation has been a fluid conversation the Cubs have been having over the last week. After a rough start to spring training, he seemingly nailed down his spot not only on the roster, but the rotation in that Thursday outing against Los Angeles.

Facing a regular Dodgers lineup, the right-hander threw 3 2/3 innings of one-hit, two-run ball, striking out five.

"[Alzolay] really had a great performance the other night against a really deep Dodgers world championship team and a lot of All-Stars," Ross said. "He went in there and rolled through that lineup. That was impressive to see."

Alzolay brings a different look to the Cubs' command-control rotation, wielding a power repertoire that none of the other starters have. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, paired with sharp breaking pitches.

But of the starting staff, Alzolay's innings will be monitored more than anyone else. Not only is this his first time pitching in a big-league rotation, but his career-high in innings is 120 1/3, accomplished in the minor leagues in 2016.

Alzolay pitched just 21 1/3 innings last season, turning in a 2.95 ERA in six games (four starts).

Mills has experience as a swingman for the Cubs and figures to make some starts this season. The same likely can be said for Shelby Miller, who was sent to minor league camp on Saturday.

Miller has a mid-April opt-out in his contract, however, which represents a soft deadline for bringing him up to the big leagues.

"We're going to stretch him out a bit and get him a little bit of length," Ross said of Miller Saturday. "I think he can also come in and be a guy that can play multiple roles for us. It really is a Swiss army knife from our pitching side."

An arbitrator recently ruled in a grievance case that Alzolay has a fourth minor-league option remaining. The Cubs have some flexibility this season in moving him up and down, if they so choose.

But in the meantime, he'll be in the big leagues, starting every fifth day or so.

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