Cubs Insider

Hendricks: 'It's unclear to us exactly where we're headed'

Cubs Insider
Fans cheer Hendricks during the 2016 World Series
USA Today

WASHINGTON — Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks has defied the odds since the day he got to the big leagues.

But the guy who has made a lucrative living out of doing more with less — the man who started the Cubs’ historic Game 7 World Series victory five years ago — might have to beat the longest odds of his career to get another playoff start with this team.

That’s just one more harsh reality baked into the Cubs’ frenetic selloff of core players in the 24 hours leading up to Friday’s trade deadline.

“It’s unclear really to us exactly where we're headed,” said Hendricks, who nonetheless talked about trusting the front office and a “plan” that not even team president Jed Hoyer was able to specify when he spoke with media Friday.

Hendricks is under contract for $14 million each of the next two seasons, with a $16 million club option for 2024 — and a 2016 ERA title, a 3.12 ERA in 12 postseason games (11 starts) and two Opening Day starts for the Cubs.

He also found himself surrounded by first-time Cubs when he took the mound Saturday against the Nationals — before earning his 11th consecutive victory and major-league-leading 13th overall.

Hendricks is 13-4 with a 3.71 ERA this season and hasn’t lost since May 9.

But what matters most after Friday’s roster-gutting start to the rebuild is whether he’ll still be around to anchor the next Cubs playoff rotation. Or whether this leads to uncertainty about whether he’s even in those plans at this point.

 

Which does he envision?

“A little bit of both,” he said. “You never know where you’re going to be. But I love Chicago so much, and they’ve given me everything. So I obviously would love to be here, and I would love to be a part of that.

“But you never know where your place is in those plans," he said, “so my focus is just going out and enjoying the game that I love to play and enjoying the competition and enjoying the guys … and try not to think too much about where you could end up.”

Hendricks, who turns 32 in December, expects to pick up even more of a leadership role in the clubhouse than he has for the past several years, given all the new faces and emphasis on cycling in young pitchers for first looks and auditions for next year.

Manager David Ross said he already had talked with veterans Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward Saturday about similar roles with young position players and planned to do so with Hendricks after the right-hander put Saturday’s start behind him.

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Hendricks, whose ability to consistently win in the majors with an 87 mph fastball and elite changeup, makes him a natural mentor for any young pitcher regardless of stuff — and makes him a potentially key figure in at least the immediate future of the Cubs’ rebuild.

But it’s still mostly an uncertain moment for him and the rest of the team left in the wake of Friday’s purge — “a really, really tough time,” Hendricks said.

And filling the presence and leadership void of Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant was not something Hendricks seemed to immediately wrap his mind around.

"I don’t know that you can honestly, 100 percent replace it, what those three guys brought to the table and how they led,” he said, figuring he and Heyward and Contreras will keep offering their experience to younger players like they always have.

“Just trying not to change too much,” he said.

And for now mostly waiting to find out what’s next.

“It’s natural to think about it somewhat,” he said. “But you can’t put all your focus there.”

Especially when the sudden change has left the landscape so disorienting for so many in the clubhouse who have been around the last few years.

“It’s going to take a while to process,” Hendricks said “It’s just very different around here without those guys. Nothing you can do but move forward. …

“It was a crazy 24 hours, and we’re still probably processing it all. It’s going to take a while. But we’ll get through it.”

 

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