Kyle Hendricks has struggled lately as his innings have climbed, but the Cubs are not necessarily considering shutting him down.
“Not currently, I guess is the best way to answer that,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Sunday of scaling back Hendricks' workload.
Hendricks finished third in MLB in innings pitched (81 1/3) during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, which came after a three-month shutdown due to COVID-19.
He was one of only three pitchers in the game to eclipse 80 innings last season and is currently top 10 (160 2/3) this season.
“You trust the player a lot in these moments,” Hottovy said. “You trust what he's feeling and what he's doing.
“We’re definitely aware of the workload and where he's at. I do think there's still some time for him to get some work in and get some things done that he wants to do this year, and then we can reevaluate that as we move forward.”
Hendricks’ numbers have taken a hit over his last few outings after a dominant three-month stretch.
He went 16 straight starts without a loss from May 16 to Aug. 6, going 11-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 100 innings.
In five starts since, Hendricks has turned in a 9.69 ERA in 26 innings. He gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday against the Pirates.
“Anytime you consider a potential shutdown, you want it to end on a good note,” Hottovy said.
“I think there's a lot of things we still want to accomplish — and I think that he wants to accomplish — this year before he feels like, ‘OK, I'm ready to turn the page on this season and be ready for next season.’”
Hendricks was asked whether he could be wearing down after his start Saturday.
“I’ve got to get back to executing better,” he said. “Everything feels good. I'm just not executing. Timing gets off and I'm throwing way too many bad pitches.
"I’ve got to get that focus back."
With five off days remaining this month, the Cubs can align their rotation in a way where their starters get more than four days between outings.
“It's not going to be on a five-day rotation at all for the next two to three weeks,” Hottovy said.
“Adding those extra days, allowing [Hendricks] time to continue to work on the things we want to work on, so we can accomplish what we want to before the end of the year, I think is important for him right now.”