MIAMI – Kyle Hendricks got as excited as his buttoned-up personality would allow after finishing Saturday’s pain-free throwing session and feeling no lingering effects on Sunday in his right hand.
“Effervescent, bubbly,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said at Marlins Park. “It sounds like he is encouraged by the whole thing. Again, I told him I just want you to feel the baseball when you throw it. So we’ll just play it along and continue to stay on this program.
“Of course, it’s probably aggressive right now to think prior to the All-Star break. But you never know. I don’t want to rule anything out. Just let him go throw.”
Hendricks – who has been sidelined since early June with inflammation in a tendon on the back of his right middle finger – played catch from 60 feet and will need several more days of throwing before moving to the mound.
Hendricks – a Cy Young Award finalist and major-league ERA leader last season – has been staying on top of his shoulder exercises and overall conditioning. But he would still probably need to work up to at least one start in the minors, leaving the details on any rehab plan fuzzy.
“It’s kind of on me,” Hendricks said. “That’s why we’re taking it slow here in the beginning, so hopefully nothing creeps back up, because it was kind of a weird injury in the first place. We didn’t know exactly what it was. It took us a little while to figure it out.
“Obviously, it could get sore again or something could happen. I just got to go day-to-day here these first few days, take it easy and make sure that doesn’t creep back up. Hopefully, we can just go from there.”
Even while missing a World Series Game 7 starter, the rotation has been trending in the right direction, posting a 2.51 ERA in the previous 11 games to reverse a 5.28 ERA in the 11 games before that. But to pull away from .500 and make a second-half push, the Cubs will absolutely need Hendricks.
“They’ve just really fallen into a groove,” Hendricks said. “They’re really taking the workload better. Just from the top, what (Jon) Lester’s been able to do, he’s carrying the rotation with the way he’s pitched. But right behind him, (Jake) Arrieta’s thrown the ball much better lately. Even ‘Lack’ (John Lackey) his last few starts, so they’ve been carrying the load.
“I feel that on me a little bit. I want to come back, obviously, and be part of it and help them out with that.”