Alzolay, Maples activated, join Cubs' bullpen

September 2nd, 2021

Major League rosters expanded to 28 players on Wednesday to start the final full month of the regular season, and rather than make any other Minor League callups, the Cubs used the two spots to activate right-handers and from the 10-day injured list.

Alzolay had been on the IL since Aug. 14 after leaving in the second inning of his start the previous day in Miami with left hamstring tightness. In the days leading up to his activation, Alzolay had a two-inning rehab start with Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 25 and a bullpen session on Saturday, the latter of which Chicago manager David Ross said went well.

Prior to his injury, each of Alzolay’s 21 appearances for the Cubs in 2021 came as a main member of the rotation. In 21 starts this season, Alzolay was 4-13 with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.

As he rejoins the pitching staff, though, Alzolay’s role appears to be shifting. Ross told Marquee Sports Network’s Taylor McGregor on Tuesday that Alzolay would be pitching out of the bullpen “unless something changes in our rotation.”

Alzolay got right to work in his new role, taking over for Justin Steele to start the sixth inning and holding the Twins scoreless on one hit over four innings for his first career save in Wednesday's 3-0 win at Target Field.

The shift to the 'pen will allow the Cubs to monitor the 26-year-old’s workload over the last month of the season. Alzolay was already at 106 1/3 innings prior to his IL stint, and his career high at any level came when he tossed 120 1/3 innings with High-A South Bend in 2016.

Meanwhile, Maples returns to Chicago’s relief corps after missing all of August due to a blister on his right middle finger that landed him on the IL on July 29.

Maples made nine appearances on a rehab assignment with Iowa (eight out of the bullpen), where he went 2-1 but posted an 8.64 ERA. He had more success with the big league club however, where he’s gone 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 24 appearances this season.

MLB, clubs raise awareness for childhood cancer
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball and its clubs raised awareness for childhood cancer during all games for the sixth consecutive year.

All MLB on-field personnel -- including players, managers, coaches and umpires -- wore gold ribbon decals and wristbands during games for Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, held during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). Nonprofit partners for clubs include local hospital partners or organizations focused on childhood cancer, such as American Cancer Society, SU2C and the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

• Matt Duffy was a late scratch from the Cubs’ lineup against the Twins on Wednesday due to right neck stiffness. He was originally slated to start at second base and bat fifth in the order. Andrew Romine took Duffy’s spot in the field and hit ninth in the series finale.

• Willson Contreras was in the lineup for the second consecutive game during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, batting second and playing catcher. In his first rehab game on Tuesday, Contreras went 1-for-3 with a solo home run in the top of the third against Indianapolis.

• After leaving Sunday's series finale against the White Sox and missing Tuesday's series opener in Minnesota due to a right ankle contusion, Sergio Alcántara returned to the Cubs' lineup on Wednesday. X-rays came back negative for structural damage after Alcántara fouled a ball off his right foot, and it appears a few days of rest allowed his ankle to heal enough to get back onto the field.