Kyle Hendricks is in uncharted waters.
This week, the 27-year-old right-hander was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his professional career with inflammation in his right hand.
Hendricks said he's missed just one start in the minor leagues with an ankle injury but has never been held out due to a physical ailment in the big leagues. The Cubs have skipped his turn in the rotation before in an effort to protect his arm, including last season before the All-Star break.
Hendricks has endured a couple rough starts in a row, allowing nine earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in his last nine innings. But he didn't feel the hand issue crop up until after his last start.
"I just kinda felt it really Tuesday in my bullpen after my start," Hendricks said. "Wednesday, it was worse, so I had to say something. Probably could push through the start if I really, really had to.
"But at this point, the area it's in being the right hand and some of the stuff we saw in the MRI, just figure to let the inflammation get down. Take the week and then come back hopefully for Pittsburgh.
"Obviously as a player, you wanna push through and keep playing and pitch, but you gotta be smart about it, too and I accept that and know that. At this point in the year, the way the team's playing, just take your time now and come back fully healthy and hopefully ready to go and roll through the rest of the year."
At this point, Hendricks doesn't think he'll miss more than one start but when he does return, the Cubs may opt for a six-man rotation to help keep pitchers fresh for the last three-and-a-half months of the season.
The Cubs slid Mike Montgomery into Hendricks' spot Friday against the Colorado Rockies and got an opportunity to see the left-handed swingman in action as a starting pitcher. He gave up two runs in four innings as he attempts to get stretched back out from his role in the bullpen.
Hendricks isn't sure how he hurt his hand, pointing to either wear and tear or even just catching a ball wrong on his bat during batting practice or as a hitter in a game.
Joe Maddon and the Cubs are not opposed to giving Hendricks some extra time off, saving some bullets for later in the season.
After spending the first three years of his career sitting just over 89 mph with his fastball, Hendricks is down to an average of 86 mph this season. He accounted for 190 innings in the regular season last year and added another 25.1 in the postseason as he pitched into November for the first time in his life.
The Cubs just want to be cautious and ensure Hendricks is at his best heading into the stretch run and another potential trip to the postseason.
"It's not the worst thing in the world," Maddon said. "For the most part, the starters have not been pressed numbers-wise or innings-wise to this point. A guy like Kyle, we've talked about maybe the velocity's down a click, this might actually be a good thing for him.
"Just putting him on a different pattern, also. It's not the worst thing in the world. I've always attempted to plan mentally and actually for the latter part of the season, wanting to make sure guys are healthy and rested.
"Our starters have had so many innings piled on the last couple years. I don't think it's a bad thing."