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Why the Cubs are counting on Kyle Hendricks to be ‘huge’ part of 2023

1 year agoAndy Martinez

PITTSBURGH — As the Cubs looks ahead to 2023, one name they’re still counting on to play a big role in their pitching staff is Kyle Hendricks.

“I do [expect him to contribute] until he proves us otherwise,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said prior to Sunday’s finale against the Pirates. “He’s had some really, really good stints of being [an] elite, elite pitcher.”

Hendricks showed flashes of that level in 2022 and in 2021. In 2021, Hendricks had a 20-start stretch from May until mid-August where he had 16 quality starts and went 13-2 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. 

This year, he pitched 7 shutout innings on April 23 against the Pirates then 3 starts later came within an out of a complete game in San Diego with 7 strikeouts on May 9. But the injury bug hit him a month later.

After an outing against the Brewers, the Cubs skipped his next start as he dealt with some shoulder pain. He made 5 more starts before exiting the Cubs’ July 5 contest in Milwaukee after 3 innings. He suffered setbacks and was eventually shut down for the rest of the year.

“He’s dealt with the shoulder stuff in the past a little bit back in like ’19, crept up [again] this year,” Hottovy said.

Hendricks met with the media on Aug. 22 and stated his plans for the rest of the year were to rest up, head to Arizona to start a strength program and ideally be “picking up a ball by the end of the season, at least be throwing … some type of throwing program.”

Hottovy said Hendricks is still in the strengthening portion but should have a normal offseason program and would be even slightly ahead of other pitchers in that sense.

“Normally, you would stop and then pick up you know, like mid-November,” Hottovy said. “So, he’s probably going to be ahead of the schedule. But a good, lengthened throwing program is going to be good for him when he doesn’t have to worry about ramping up too fast, too quick.”

The time allows Hendricks some time to fine-tune some things, too. There have been aspects of his delivery that have slightly veered away from when he was at his peak in 2016-2017. In that two-year stretch, he posted a 2.51 ERA and 1.07 WHIP across 55 games (54 starts). Over the last two seasons, he’s posted a 4.78 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, which included a 4.80 ERA and 1.29 WHIP this year before the injury.

“Unfortunately, during the season, you don’t have a lot of time to work on this kind of time to be able to do that,” Hottovy said. “So, he’s spent a lot of time at the facility in Arizona working on the strengthening part of what we want to do. So hopefully by the time he starts throwing everything mechanical, everything lower half wise is ready to go.”

And if that’s the case, it adds credibility, experience and talent to an increasingly deep starting rotation pool. 

“I’m confident in him getting some rest, I’m confident in him having a good normal offseason build up,” Hottovy said. “So as of right now, we absolutely are believing in Kyle Hendricks to be a huge part of what we want to do next year.”

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