Kyle Hendricks expected to return to Cubs rotation in coming days
Kyle Hendricks will likely stand atop a major league mound for the first time in nearly 11 months this weekend.
The Cubs confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the veteran righty would return to the Cubs’ rotation during their homestand, potentially as early as this weekend. Hendricks threw a bullpen session on Tuesday at Wrigley Field and continues to work his way back after a serious shoulder injury.
“Just exciting to get him back,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “I love having him around. He’s the perfect teammate. He’s a metronome. I think everyone’s excited to have him back and on the mound here.”
The Cubs opened the season with a rotation of Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Drew Smyly and Hayden Wesneski. But Wesneski struggled of late and was optioned last week as the Cubs went with a four-man rotation to inject some extra life into their bullpen that was stretched thin.
“There’s a lot of stuff that kinda goes into it,” manager David Ross said. “Just making sure after [Hendricks’] bullpen everything’s nice and clean and we’ve got some ideas we’ll get to you as soon as possible.”
There were two off days in the last five days for the Cubs, so they were able to trot out the four-man rotation and keep everyone on normal rest. But this weekend presents the first real gap for the Cubs — Steele’s turn in the rotation is due up Friday, while Smyly would have to work on short rest if he were to pitch Saturday. The Cubs could opt to insert Hendricks on Friday, giving the rest of their rotation an extra day in between starts or they could let Steele go on normal rest on Friday and Hendricks on Saturday and Smyly, Stroman and Taillon working on normal rest.
Hendricks last pitched in a major league game on July 5, 2022 when he went just 3 innings, allowing a pair of runs with 4 strikeouts against the Brewers. He was later placed on the injured list and has been rehabbing a capsular tear in his right shoulder ever since.
But the warning signs were there for Hendricks even before that start in Milwaukee.
Before that outing, Hendricks was pitching to a 4.76 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP and just never really looked like the vintage Hendricks — but he’s always been the type to pitch through any struggles and make his start.
“We had thought he had carried a heavy workload and just the velocity, the pitch execution, all those things were just not to where he wanted to be,” Ross said. “I think part of his mentality is just to push through and he got to a point where he couldn’t anymore.”
Since then, Hendricks has been working on returning to health and adding some velocity to his repertoire. In his last rehab start on May 20, Hendricks sat 87-88 mph on his sinker and his four-seam fastball topped out at 90.2 mph.
If he can regularly be sitting there, it could be a boon to the Cubs’ rotation.
“He’s been in the biggest moments, the biggest spotlights and nothing seems to get him from wavering from what he does,” Ross said. “There’s just a lot of real positives having him around. Outside of his great performances.”