The Chicago Cubs have placed closer Adbert Alzolay on the 15-day injured list and while the team is hoping that a few weeks of rest will be enough for his recovery, the chance that he won’t pitch this season again does exist.
Alzolay, who has 22 saves this season, has been dealing with an arm issue for a few weeks and on Monday he was officially shut down because of a forearm strain. Veteran pitcher Michael Fulmer has been activated from the injured list and will take Alzolay’s spot on the team’s 28-man roster.
Alzolay blew a save on Sept. 1, against the Cincinnati Reds and was then given a full week between his next appearance. The Cubs gave him that time to see if his arm issue would heel, but after testing it out in back-to-back appearances this past weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team decided Alzolay would benefit from being completely shut down for a couple of weeks.
A forearm strain can be scary for pitchers, but of course not every injury is the same. For example, Fulmer, who is now back in the bullpen, went on the injured list with a forearm strain of his own on Aug. 26. He last pitched on Aug. 24, so he’s back after 2.5 weeks.
However, there are cases when pitchers miss a lot more time. Cubs reliever Brad Boxberger went on the injured list with a forearm strain in the middle of May and the veteran right-hander barely returned to the active roster a few days ago following a rehab assignment at Triple-A.
Hopefully Alzolay’s timetable to return is a lot closer to Fulmer than it is Boxberger.
In his first full season as a reliever, Alzolay emerged as the Cubs closer and at one pointed converted 18 consecutive save chances from July 5 through Aug. 29. Overall this season, Alzolay has recorded a 2.71 ERA in 57 appearances, striking out 66 batters in 63 innings.
As for the closer moving forward, it’ll probably be determined by matchups. On Sunday, right-hander Julian Merryweather was given the ball in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks and he was able to lock down his first save of the season. Since the start of August, Merryweather has posted a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings, striking out 29 batters during those 18 relief outings.
Mark Leiter Jr. could also get a chance to close out games. He’s recorded four saves this season, but like Alzolay, has looked worn down in September. It will also be interesting to see how much David Ross will trust Fulmer coming back from the injured list. Despite Fulmer’s struggles early in the season, he turned it around and for about two months Fulmer was one of the best relievers in baseball.
Michael Fulmer Back on Injured List
Well, this certainly isn’t a good development, as veteran right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer has been placed back on the 15-day injured list because of a forearm strain. He pitched on Monday, when he came back from his first stay on the injury list, but wasn’t seen since and on Saturday the Cubs shut him down for another couple of weeks.
Fulmer was first on the IL on Aug. 26, with the same arm issue.
So, down the stretch the Cubs bullpen will be without Fulmer and Adbert Alzolay, who went down on Monday and it’s definitely concerning to see these forearm strains for both. Fulmer was probably rushed a bit too fast and now the team is going to need other guys to step up at the end of September, as the Cubs attempt to hod on to their Wild Card spot.