Although last night’s Cubs game raised our spirits considerably, there was one dark cloud just before the game: Kyle Hendricks hitting the injured list with shoulder inflammation.
Although he’ll get a further evaluation by the team doctor tomorrow in Chicago, both he and team president Theo Epstein were not saying the things that would leave you in a fetal position.
Hendricks said doesn’t think injury serious. Didn’t happen on one pitch. More of a buildup, first felt playing catch in recent days, then worsened during start Friday. “Just didn’t feel right.”
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) June 15, 2019
Hendricks said his shoulder was sore while playing catch in days leading up to Friday’s start, but didn’t think it was bad enough to warrant skipping a turn. Then the pain worsened throughout outing in L.A.
In rest mode now. Will have more tests done in Chicago. pic.twitter.com/jazOUOApca
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 15, 2019
Theo Epstein explains the decision to shut down Kyle Hendricks: “This is the right thing to do. Where we are in the season, it’s not uncommon for shoulder inflammation to pop up. You could kind of notice it last night. He had a hard time really finishing his pitches.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 16, 2019
Kyle Hendricks doesn’t sound too concerned, but he didn’t feel right last night at Dodger Stadium and the Cubs want him to rest his right shoulder: “If it was a different point in the year, we could do different things, but it just makes sense to take the time now.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 15, 2019
The implication there is that the Cubs and Hendricks already don’t believe there’s any kind of structural issue, and if it were the playoffs or something, maybe he could get by with certain treatments. Obviously we’ll see what we see when he gets evaluated further, and the Cubs have time since they opted to put him on the Injured List right away. In this stretch before the All-Star break, it’s good to get guys rest anyway.
As for who takes Hendricks’ next start (and more if he winds up sitting out a little longer), the three options are pretty obvious: Tyler Chatwood, Mike Montgomery, and top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay.
Chatwood has already filled in once this year with a fantastic start against the Angels, and Montgomery has consistently been very effective as a fill-in starter for the Cubs. Each has had his ups and downs overall, though, and is currently working out of the bullpen.
Which leaves Alzolay, who is pitching out of his mind at AAA Iowa right now, who is the top pitching prospect in the org, and whose next turn in the rotation happens to line up perfectly with Hendricks.
“Alzolay is on a real roll at Triple-A,” Theo Epstein told Cubs.com after the Hendricks news. “And, honestly, we’ve been planning –even before this – to possibly give him a couple spot starts at some point over the next month or so, just to get his feet wet and also give our veteran rotation guys a little bit of a breather during a stretch of schedule where we don’t have a lot of off-days.”
That’s not quite confirming it’s going to be Adbert Time, but it sure sounds like it’s a high likelihood.
Alzolay, 24, missed most of last year with a lat injury, and the first part of this year with a side injury. Since he returned to Iowa six starts ago, he’s struck out 46(!!!) over 32.0 innings, while walking just 6 (and one was intentional). He’s allowed only 24 hits. Basically, Alzolay has looked like a top pitching prospect – the kind you’d see doing this in another organization and pine over why the Cubs can’t have a guy like that.
I do get the desire to see Chatwood and/or Montgomery get more starts when available, because they can be very effective (and could plausibly interest other starter-needy teams in trade, if it came to that). But given Alzolay’s future, his current roll, and the interest in getting him some big league time this year anyway (he has only so many bullets in 2019), he’s the guy I really, really want to see getting this call.
We’ll know soon enough.