Before departing Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach for the Southern League, Adbert Alzolay took some sage advice from Pelicans pitching coach Anderson Taveras.
"Tavy said to me to keep doing what I did [in Myrtle Beach]," the Cubs No. 21 prospect said. "'Be yourself on the mound, keep the ball down and execute your pitches. It's all you need.'"
With that in mind, Alzolay matched a career high with 10 strikeouts, scattering two hits and a walk over five scoreless innings in his Double-A debut with the Smokies on Sunday. Tennessee eventually fell to Montgomery, 1-0, in 16 innings at Smokies Stadium.
"In the first inning, I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm pitching here -- finally,'" said Alzolay, who also fanned 10 on Sept. 3, 2015 with Class A Short Season Eugene. "I was a little nervous, yeah. But after that, I was doing my normal game."
Video: Alzolay records 10th strikeout for Tennessee
Before his promotion, the 22-year-old amassed a 7-1 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 15 starts for Myrtle Beach. After striking out 78 hitters in 81 2/3 innings, Alzolay was reassured by Smokies pitching coach Terry Clark that he could maintain the same approach.
"He was like, 'Yeah, you don't have to change anything, delivery, windup or whatever,'" the Venezuela native said. "He said, 'Be yourself on the mound. That's it.' For me, it was the same game. But you have to keep the ball down more here. The strike zone is a little small. I threw a couple of pitches I thought were strikes that the catcher [Erick Castillo] said were a little outside. That was the only difference for me."
Alzolay retired six of the first seven batters he faced, all via strikeout. All three of his pitches -- fastball, curveball and changeup -- worked together to keep the Biscuits off balance. In all, he threw 53 of 84 pitches for strikes.
"The first inning, I knew my stuff was working pretty good because I threw all of my pitches in different counts," Alzolay said. "Those pitches were good. The catcher just came to me and said, 'Hey just keep making pitches and everything is going to be good."
Gameday box score
Nathan Lukes collected Montgomery's first hit with a two-out single in the third. But Castillo helped out his batterymate by catching Lukes trying to steal second to end the inning.
In the fourth, 19th-ranked Rays prospect Joe McCarthy singled with one down. But the 6-foot, 179-pound righty fanned Grant Kay, and Castillo fired to first to complete the double play. Alzolay gave plenty of credit to his backstop, a familiar face to him.
"I was with him about two years ago down in Venezuela in Winter Ball," he said. "He really knows my stuff too, so we were working really good together."
Alzolay set down the order in the fifth, fanning two more along the way. He didn't even known he had tied his personal best until he saw it on Twitter.
"It was really, really amazing," he said. "I wanted to continue, but they said I had a pitch count. That's why they took me off the mound in the fifth. But to me, that was the best inning of the game."
Alzolay has amassed 88 strikeouts over two levels this season, eight more than he had all of last year in 120 1/3 innings with Class A South Bend.
"For me, nothing is going to change," he said. "I'm still going to be the same man on the mound. I'm going to use the same pitches, I'm not going to do anything with my delivery."
Andrew Velazquez singled in the go-ahead run for the Biscuits in the 16th.