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Alzolay tries to keep focus as MLB decision looms on status originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs rookie Adbert Alzolay said he’s not following the players’ union grievance in a case that might make the difference on whether he opens the season in the big leagues, but he’s also well aware of what’s at stake.
“I hear about it, but I’m not into it. I just leave that stuff to my agent,” said Alzolay, the starting rotation/swingman candidate who struggled for the second time in three spring outings Saturday against the Royals.
“I don’t like putting [those] things on my mind,” he said. “If I put that pressure on my mind that, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m going to get sent down,’ or this or that, that’s just going to distract me from my main focus, which is just to make the team and be in the big leagues.”
Alzolay, who split time during last year’s abbreviated season between Chicago and the Cubs’ alternate (minor-league) site, appeared to be out of options entering camp this year because of that — which would mean an almost certain big-league job out of camp (the Cubs otherwise forced to expose the bright young talent to waivers).
But MLB asserted the short season didn’t count for purposes of options — one of several issues that fell through the cracks in last year’s contentious negotiations over player pay, service time and COVID-19 protocols.
The case that involves the careers of dozens of players revolves around whether the 2020 season constitutes a full professional baseball season, which MLB rules define as a minimum of 90 days. If not then none of the player options used for players last season count.
The case was heard weeks ago, and executives and players still are waiting on the critical decision.
“I’m going to make the roster. That’s what I have on my mind,” Alzolay said. “I don’t really put other things on my mind. Those things are negative to me. I just try to control what I can do on the field.”
Alzolay has more than two weeks to work on those things within his control regardless of the outcome of the grievance.
Even Saturday, his start looked worse at a glance than it actually was.
With speedy Jarrod Dyson at first and one out in the second, he struck out Nicky Lopez swinging at a nasty breaking pitch — but the ball skipped past catcher Willson Contreras for a wild pitch that put runners at the corners.
When Lopez took off for second a couple pitches later, Contreras threw behind Dyson at third — and the ball sailed into left field for an error that allowed both runners to score.
Alzolay then retired Whit Merrifield on a grounder to second and was done for the day because of his pitch count.
“That’s good that it happened right now so we can keep working on those moments and have my mind ready for those moments when the season starts,” he said. “That’s something you can’t control. The only thing that I can control is making pitches.”
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