The rush of cheers were impossible to miss from second base, even as Jared Young tried to soak in the moment in front of 31,775 fans at Wrigley Field.
His two-out double to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning in the Chicago Cubs’ 2-1 win Friday against the Colorado Rockies gave the 27-year-old Canadian his first major-league hit.
“That’s probably the loudest building I’ve ever been in,” Young said afterward. “So that was pretty cool. I really enjoyed that. It was a surreal day.
“I was 0-for-3, but that’s baseball. I felt like the first couple of at-bats I was like, ‘Oh, I need to I need to do something here.’ But if you press in baseball, it normally doesn’t go your way. So just relax and take it as they come.”
Young’s personal cheering section featured 15 friends and family members, most of whom made the trip from his hometown of Prince George, Brisith Columbia. Young, a 15th-round pick of the Cubs in 2017, grinded to get to this point. He reached Triple-A Iowa for the first time last season, spending half the year there, and returned to Des Moines for 2022, hitting .228 with a .310 on-base percentage and .723 OPS in 108 games.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Young said, “but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Rafael Ortega’s season-ending left ring finger fracture created a roster opening for Young to get a look during the final three weeks. He showed off his glove work Friday, twice making a smooth scoop on throws to first base. He corralled a one-hopper from shortstop Christopher Morel, who made a slick play to his left, spun and fired a throw to Young for the first out of the sixth inning.
The sequence kept Marcus Stroman’s no-hitter intact until two batters later, when Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon hit a home run to center field.
“Those are momentum shifters, especially for me when I see that my defense is bringing that energy, it makes me want to be even better on the mound, so I kind of feed off that,” said Stroman, whose 14 called strikes with his sinker were his second most with the pitch since the start of 2018. “I‘m someone who it’s going to be incredibly hard to throw a no-hitter because I’m someone who puts the ball in play. I don’t rack up strikeouts like that. So there’s usually weak contact or groundballs that get through or jam shots, but that’s not necessarily something I’m ever focused on.”
Here are two other things we learned Friday.
1. Adbert Alzolay’s season debut nears
Alzolay never envisioned his right shoulder strain would put his whole season in jeopardy.
The issue popped up on one pitch during his last bullpen session before reporting to spring training in March. It was the second time in his career Alzolay has dealt with this injury, and the Cubs took a cautious approach to ensures his shoulder fully healed and the injury does not resurface. It has left Alzolay limited time to build up big-league innings for 2023. The time constraint means Alzolay will pitch out of the bullpen rather than try to build him up for a starter’s workload.
As of Friday, Alzolay had not been activated from the 60-day injured list, but he confirmed he will join the active roster in the coming days. His relief at finally being fully healthy was palpable, describing it as a “huge takeaway” heading into the offseason.
However, Alzolay is not looking too far ahead about whether he will be in the 2023 rotation.
“To be honest, at this point, I don’t even think about it because it’s what is best for the team,” Alzolay said. “We’re building something. We’re trying to win, so for me, if my role is best out of the bullpen, being a long guy, being a guy that can throw in the eighth or close again or whatever, I feel like I have the weapons to do that. … I feel like there is a lot more options there and then that allows the team to go on and be aggressive during the offseason.”
Alzolay is embracing the bullpen role, something he got a taste of for all of September last year. He learned to always be aggressive, an approach he plans to channel again.
“When you have power pitches and you know your pitches are sharp, you don’t have to be going around the hitters or try to set up the hitters,” Alzolay said. “You just go right away after them, so that allows you to throw your breaking balls late in the count and make them chase the ball.”
2. Injuries linger for Willson Contreras and Nico Hoerner
Manager David Ross sounded optimistic during the Cubs’ trip in New York earlier this week that Contreras (left ankle) and Hoerner (right triceps) would be ready to return to the lineup after Thursday’s off day.
Instead of starting Friday, their timelines are uncertain. Contreras, who is on the injured list, continues to progress slowly from his left ankle sprain. Ross estimated that the catcher is a week or so away from returning, which would leave him roughly 10 games left to play this season.
Hoerner has not played since Sunday when he exited the game because of tightness in his right triceps. The shortstop had an MRI on Thursday and was expected to meet with a doctor Friday afternoon to discuss the results.
“He feels better every single day, just taking it with a little extra caution,” Ross said.
Right-hander Alec Mills’ season is over. He underwent surgery Monday on his lower back to remove a portion of a disc.
Seiya Suzuki’s X-ray on his left hand was negative after getting hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s game. He did not start Friday but entered the game in the bottom of the ninth as a defensive replacement in right field. Suzuki told the Tribune after Friday’s game that the swelling in his hand has decreased and has felt better each day.
“I told Rossy I feel like I’m at the point where I can play in right field right now,” Suzuki said through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “So that’s why I was out there and didn’t take at-bats.”