Cubs’ Tommy Hottovy: No set date to limit Adbert Alzolay’s innings

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Cubs won’t predetermine date to cut Alzolay’s workload originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay suppressed a smile after another milestone start in his young career.

“To be honest, I felt that today was my best game so far,” he said after the Cubs’ 2-1 loss at St. Louis Saturday.

He’d just thrown a career-high seven innings, limiting the Cardinals to two runs, in what he called “a huge step forward.”

Alzolay has never shouldered the kind of workload he’s on pace for, raising questions even before the season about innings restrictions. But none appear imminent as Alzolay continues to progress in his first season as a big-league starter.

“There will probably be a point where he hits a wall,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “And we'll be able to make that adjustment and make an assessment of what we want to do. But right now, the pace he's on and stuff we're seeing, we want to roll with that as much as we can.”

Alzolay has recorded quality starts in three of his last five outings. And his latest start stood out for more than just its length.

On Saturday, Alzolay opened the seventh inning giving up a solo home run to Yadier Molina. It was only the second run Alzolay allowed all game, but it gave the Cardinals the lead. As Hottovy put it, the crowd was going “ballistic.”

Alzolay got out of the inning with just seven more pitches.

“That's impressive,” Hottovy said. “That’s something that you just don't get to learn and experience unless you go through it.”

The transition from a 60-game season last year to a full 162-game schedule raised workload concerns for pitchers across baseball. But even in the minor leagues, Alzolay hasn’t thrown more than 121 innings in a season.

“To say he's going to throw X amount of innings,” Hottovy said of this season, “is only going to limit him for next year or the year after that.”

So, the Cubs are taking a more fluid approach. Beyond the eye test and conversations with Alzolay about how he feels, the Cubs have data to alert them of potential mid-season fatigue. Things like a drop in velocity, a concerning change in release point, or a dip in spin rate can be red flags.

“We don't want to say right now, ‘Oh, at this date we're going to give him a break,’” Hottovy said. “At that date, he may look fantastic. … We may be sitting here September 1 and be like, ‘Adbert's been rolling, and we like all the pitch data, he feels great, and everything looks great. Let's keep going.’”

Or maybe not. Either way, that’s a decision for another day.