Today, the Sun-Times’ Maddie Lee wrote about the Chicago Cubs’ pitching staff, with a lot of roster construction discussion and role-planning discussion. Lots in there to digest, and re-set the winter.
Among the many items discussed are the rehabs for pitchers Kyle Hendricks (shoulder/capsular tear) and Codi Heuer (Tommy John surgery). Each is out in Arizona working through the process, as they have been since the fall.
The timeline for Kyle Hendricks is still uncertain, because it all kinda depends on how he feels once he starts throwing off the mound. Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Sun-Times that a “best-case scenario” would have Hendricks feeling so good in Spring Training that he’s ready to open the season in the Cubs’ rotation.
But you don’t get the sense that the Cubs are planning on that, and they certainly have the starting depth to let Hendricks take as long as he needs. Right now, if everyone was healthy, you’d expect the Opening Day group to be Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, Drew Smyly, and one of Adrian Sampson or Keegan Thompson. If Hendricks is ready, you would probably see Thompson in the bullpen (where he has thrived), and Sampson might head to Iowa to stay in a starter’s rhythm. Behind them, you also have Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad, Caleb Kilian, and Roenis Elias, among others. It’s a lot of depth, so, again, letting Hendricks take as much time as possible to give him any chance of succeeding this year is an easy decision. (Adbert Alzolay has already said that he’s anticipating being in relief, by the way.)
As for Codi Heuer, you may remember that his surgery, which took place during the lockout last year, was more involved than a typical Tommy John surgery, which is why he’s on something more like a 15-16 month rehab timeline than the 12-13 you see more often.
According to the Sun-Times, that rehab is still on track, so we could possibly see Heuer ready to return to the bullpen for the Cubs as soon as late June. Again, though, the Cubs have so much relief depth that they’re going to be able to let Heuer take as long as necessary. You want him to be tip-top when he does return, because the upside is still that of a late-inning reliever, if not a closer.
If all goes well, it’s conceivable that the Cubs could have three high-quality relief arms ready to return from Tommy John surgery at some point in the second half. There’s Heuer, but also Ethan Roberts and recently-re-signed lefty Brad Wieck. It would be kinda nuts if ALL THREE were ready to return in the second half, and there were bullpen spots for all of them, but hey, it’s nice to know there’s that potential for more relief coming (in addition to any moves at the Trade Deadline).