At this time last year, Arismendy Alcantara went to New York and played in the All-Star Futures Game, crushing a home run onto Citi Field’s upper deck.
Alcantara will spend this All-Star break in Chicago, relaxing after the breakout performance that dared the front office to send him back to Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs closed out the unofficial first half with Sunday’s 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. That left them with a 40-54 record and big questions about their rotation — and what to do with an electrifying player who wouldn’t even be here yet if Darwin Barney’s wife hadn’t given birth to their third child.
Alcantara became the bright spot, hitting his first big-league home run off Julio Teheran, Atlanta’s All-Star right-hander. That sixth-inning shot traveled 375 feet, beyond the LED board and onto the party deck in the right-field bleachers.
“I just try to do my job,” Alcantara said. “If they want me to stay here, I will. But it’s not my decision.”
Alcantara hustled for a double in the first inning, reaching out and lifting a ball to shallow left field. Justin Upton dove forward and the ball kicked off his leg, and the Braves outfielder saw Alcantara again in the ninth inning. Upton slammed into the bricks and ivy while making a warning-track catch after Alcantara drove a ball off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Since making his big-league debut, Alcantara has gone 9-for-23 with six runs, three doubles, a triple, a homer and five RBIs in five games. A natural shortstop, he can play second base and center field while adding another dimension with his speed and ability to switch-hit.
The Cubs already extended Alcantara’s stay after Barney’s two-game paternity leave last week. Manager Rick Renteria said “he’s holding his own” but otherwise wouldn’t commit to Alcantara staying in the big leagues.
Alcantara is the shiny new toy for Cubs fans and the Chicago media, a reason to watch this team. The Cubs still have 40 percent of their rotation unaccounted for after trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s. Travis Wood, last year’s All-Star representative, is now 7-8 with a 4.96 ERA after Sunday’s ugly loss.
The Cubs have their pitching set for next weekend’s three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field and theoretically wouldn’t have to make a move until July 22. So Alcantara Watch will continue.
“I just try to enjoy the game,” Alcantara said. “I try to get better every day to reach the next step.”