Manager David Ross left open the possibility of limiting Kyle Hendricks over the final two weeks of the season after the Cubs right-hander’s rough outing Thursday against the Phillies — which could mean shutting him down at 30 starts.
“He doesn't want that. I'll tell you that,” Ross said of scaling back Hendricks' workload. “I know he's frustrated. He expects better.
"He feels good. He feels fine. But we'll look at that and kind of do what's best for him going forward.”
Workloads for all pitchers have been under a microscope this season after the abbreviated 60-game 2020 season.
Hendricks, who finished third in MLB in innings in 2020 (81 1/3 in 12 starts), currently ranks eighth this season at 170 1/3. Thursday was his 30th start of the season.
“It's been a long year overall with everything that's happened, but no,” said Hendricks when asked if the innings mounting up could be affecting him. “I feel good. I feel healthy. I'm in a good spot, so I'm really happy about that.
“It’s as simple as just making a lot of bad pitches, leaving it over the middle of the plate. Just got to have a little bit better focus, get back to the bottom of the zone.”
Hendricks allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings on Thursday. He threw three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fourth, allowing four hits and two walks while hitting two batters.
He allowed five runs in the inning before exiting and was charged with two more after.
“Very uncharacteristic of Kyle tonight,” Ross said. “It looked like I was watching a different pitcher out there tonight. I didn't see the guy that I normally [do], aggressive, fastballs to both sides.
“It looked like he kind of lost the feel, walking guys, hitting a couple. We’ve seen a little bit of that from time to time on the backside of the season — that one inning where it kind of derails him a little bit. Just not his best night.”
Hendricks got off to a slow start this season, holding a 6.23 ERA through seven starts.
He got hot in mid-May, going 16 starts without a loss from May 16 to Aug. 6. He threw 14 quality starts over that stretch, posting a 2.79 ERA.
He’s pitched less than five innings four times in seven starts since, holding in a 9.08 ERA over that span. His 4.81 ERA this season is over a run and a half higher than his career total from 2014-20 (3.12).
With about two weeks left in the season, there's time for Hendricks to make two or three more starts.
“It’s super important to me,” said Hendricks of finishing out the season. “I’m going to take the ball when it's given to me every fifth day.
"I just have to be much better for this team going forward."