Alzolay unleashes first 'needed' fist pump of 2024

April 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Once saw that the fly ball dropped into the glove of right fielder on Sunday afternoon in Arlington, the Cubs' closer spun around in the infield and did a more subdued version of his signature fist pump. He then slapped his chest three times and shared a quick hug with catcher Yan Gomes.

It took three games, plus a four-run rally in the ninth inning on Sunday, but the Cubs notched their first win of the 2024 campaign with a 9-5 triumph over the reigning World Series-champion Rangers.

“Needed it. The boys needed it,” Alzolay said. “It was great. It was a really good all-around team win, I believe. I feel like we were back and forth for the whole game. And then, just being able to come back late in the game, and then give the ball back to the manager for his first win as a Cub is huge for us. We're pretty excited about it.”

The Cubs will be hoping to see that fist pump plenty more times this season from Alzolay, who has not only turned into a trusted late-inning arm, but as a leader throughout the organization. Alzolay smiles when his fist pump is mentioned, because the righty had no idea how it would take off in popularity among fans and players with the Cubs.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy noted this spring how Minor Leaguer José Romero did the Alzolay fist pump when he closed out a playoff game for Single-A Myrtle Beach last season.

“The first pump's elite,” Hottovy said with a laugh during Spring Training. “You talk about connectedness -- we did a presentation to the Minor League side and they showed a highlight. It was José Romero closing out the playoff game and he did the Adbert first pump.

“That's the type of stuff that you see. The players gravitate toward each other and they see internal guys having success, and then they're doing it in the Minor Leagues too. It was really cool to see.”

Alzolay said he heard about Romero’s celebration and felt honored.

“Everyone knows how energetic, how electric I feel when I'm on the mound,” Alzolay said. “But pitching in high-leverage situations, you've just got to be so in the moment. You've just got to feel so calm. And I feel like that's how I feel when I'm pitching. But then, when I know I did my job, I let my emotions out, because that's the kind of player I am. Even if I try to hold it down, it's really hard to, because it's really hard to compete at this level.

“I just feel like, even for me, it came out of nowhere. That was my reaction. And I’ve told [the Minor Leaguers], ‘It makes me really happy and really proud that you guys are looking up to me, because of that and because of everything I'm doing here.’”