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Cubs replenish roster with a bevy of moves, including placing Kyle Hendricks on the IL

1 month agoTony Andracki

The season is less than a month old, but the Cubs have already been forced to utilize nearly their entire 40-man roster.

Tuesday brought about a bevy of roster moves, including:

—Kyle Hendricks to the 15-day IL with a low back strain
—Drew Smyly to the 15-day IL with right hip impingement
—Garrett Cooper designated for assignment
—Matt Mervis recalled
—Hayden Wesneski recalled
—Luke Little recalled

When Mervis stepped in for his first at-bat Tuesday night, he became the 35th different player the Cubs have used this season. Mervis drew the start Tuesday at DH as the Cubs beat the Astros 7-2.

[MORE: Why Cubs opted to move on from Garrett Cooper]

“It’s just part of the season,” manager Craig Counsell said of all the injuries and roster moves. “Turning the page is such a key in the baseball season. Good or bad — turn the page.”

Hendricks reported feeling something in his lower back during Sunday’s pre-start bullpen. He gave up 4 runs in 4 innings against the Marlins and took his 3rd loss of the season in the process.

He has pitched to a 12.00 ERA and 2.10 WHIP in 21 innings, surrendering a league-high 37 hits, 28 earned runs and 8 homers in that time.

While he’s out, Hendricks and the Cubs will work to get him back to the pitcher that had a 3.48 career ERA prior to 2024.

“We’ve got to get past an injury first,” Counsell said. “And then get our heads together on a plan to to get him pitching better, essentially. So we’ll start to go to work on that now.

“I mean, obviously as he’s been going through this, [we’ve been] trying to come up with ideas and and we’ll continue to do that.”

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Given his struggles, his age (34) and his contract status (he’s a free agent at the end of the season), some in the fanbase were left wondering if this was the end of the road for Hendricks in Chicago.

But Counsell immediately dismissed that notion.

“I don’t think that at all, no,” Counsell said. “Kyle is not pitching the way he wants to pitch. Kyle has very high expectations of himself. So when we get past this injury, he’ll go back to work and He’s going to commit to doing everything he can.

“Having an effective Kyle Hendricks is something that’s going to make this team better.”

Meanwhile, the hip injury popped up for Smyly when the team was in Arizona last week. The Cubs tried to stay away from him for a couple of days until Sunday, when he pitched 2.1 innings in relief of Hendricks.

Throughout that outing, Smyly still felt it.

The veteran southpaw has appeared in 9 games this season, all out of the bullpen. He is 2-2 with a 4.97 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

Little made the Opening Day roster before he was sent down to Triple-A earlier this month. He was utilized as the team’s 27th man Saturday during the doubleheader and is now back as a direct replacement for Smyly as a lefty in the bullpen.

Wesneski began in Triple-A to start the year but was called up for the finale in Arizona last week. He tossed 4 shutout innings in a clutch performance out of the bullpen and then was optioned right back to the minors.

In the wake of the Hendricks injury, Wesneski provides more length for the Cubs. Either he or Ben Brown could slot into Hendricks’ spot in the rotation on Saturday, or they could pitch out of the bullpen before that point.

The Cubs are working through all options.

Beginning with Tuesday’s game, the Cubs play 16 contests in a row before their next off-day (May 9).

Wesneski is ready for a variety of roles in that time frame.

“Man, whatever they send my way,” he said. “It’s one of those things where whatever they need. I’m not exactly sure. They tell me when to pitch and I pitch.”

All of the early-season injuries and roster moves serve as a reminder to players that even if they are not on the big-league roster to start the year, things can change in a hurry.

“It’s incredible — a lot of moves already, a lot of going up and down,” Wesneski said. “You say that in Spring Training, but now it’s coming to fruition. You’re just seeing how deep we are as a team.”

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