Kyle Hendricks won’t get the same rest and relaxation the majority of his Cubs teammates will get during next week’s All-Star break. But he’s been probably had his fill of time off.
Hendricks will embark on a rehab assignment Monday with Double-A Tennessee, and assuming all goes well, it sounds like one of last year’s Cy Young finalists could be back in the Cubs’ starting rotation following the break.
“He’s going to go out and pitch in Tennessee,” manager Joe Maddon told reporters ahead of Saturday’s game against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. “Once we get that done and accomplished and he’s well, we’ll be able to figure out the post-All-Star break rotation stuff.”
Hendricks hasn’t pitched in a big league game in more than a month, last going four innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 4 before being placed on the disabled list four days later with tendinitis in his right hand.
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Much like the Cubs as a whole, Hendricks has found it difficult to replicate his sterling 2016 performance. In 11 starts this season he’s got a 4.09 ERA. This after leading baseball with a 2.13 ERA last season.
The Cubs certainly could use Hendricks back in the rotation, and they could especially use him to return to some semblance of his 2016 form. Inconsistent starting pitching has arguably been the 2017 team’s biggest issue, with Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey all struggling in the consistency department. Back-end solutions Mike Montgomery and Eddie Butler haven't looked much like long-term answers.
After dominating teams much of last season en route to that curse-busting World Series championship, the Cubs’ starting staff ranks just eighth in the National League with a 4.59 ERA. That number was an eye-popping (and league-leading) 2.96 a season ago.
Even Hendricks’ return would leave plenty of mystery when it comes to the rotation, though. Lackey remains on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. And while Montgomery and Butler have been serviceable, they’ve left plenty to be desired. Butler hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning since his first start of the season back in May and has made it out of the fifth just once in his last four outings. Montgomery has a 5.40 ERA in six starts.
Getting Hendricks back will be big for the Cubs. But all this is another reminder that starting pitching might be at the top of the front office’s trade-deadline wish list.