Love to See It: Kyle Hendricks Pitched in an Extended Spring Training Game

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Love to See It: Kyle Hendricks Pitched in an Extended Spring Training Game

Chicago Cubs

Things are still progressing positively for Chicago Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks, who has been carefully rehabbing a capsular tear in his shoulder since last fall.

The latest step? Actual game action! It happened down in Arizona:

Hendricks, who pitched in front of D.J. Herz, who is also ramping up to head out to his season debut, went two near-perfect innings in an extended spring training game against some Rockies youngsters. Hendricks walked one, but struck out four, and threw about 31 pitches, according to Arizona Phil. From there, Hendricks threw his final “inning” in the bullpen, adding another 15 pitches to his day.

The Cubs say Hendricks “felt great” after the day, so that’s even more encouraging.

If Hendricks is up to three innings and 45 pitches, and he’s done a little game action, you could reasonably speculate that he’s close to a minor league rehab assignment. It’s likely to be on the longer side, as these things go, with Hendricks progressing up closer to 75 pitches before the Cubs would even consider activating him. My guess is he could get there in about three starts, but the Cubs have played this thing so overly cautious (which is smart!) that I wouldn’t be surprised to see another extended spring training appearance, and then a rehab assignment that features as many as four starts. So we might still be a few weeks or more away from Hendricks returning to the Cubs, even if everything goes perfectly from here.

I know what I’ll get asked, by the way: what happens to the rotation when Hendricks is ready to go? You’re going to hate my answer, but it’s the “right” answer and it’s probably the answer the front office would give, too. The answer is: let’s just see where things stand when he’s ready.

The reality of five big league pitchers is that, between now and when Kyle Hendricks would be ready to go – a few weeks from now? – is that someone might feel a little something. Even if each individual guy was 90% likely to be completely fine over those three weeks, that leaves more than a 40% chance that at least one of them is not completely fine (sorry, just doing the multiplication). So the decision might wind up made for the Cubs between now and then, and I don’t see much point in stressing until it’s actually time to stress.

And if everyone’s healthy at that point, you will have had three more weeks of performance data to consider. Maybe the Cubs option Hayden Wesneski. Maybe the Cubs move someone into the bullpen. Maybe the Cubs go six-man rotation for a week or two to see how things shake out. Maybe Hendricks, himself, has a setback. So on and so forth. I think it’s more likely than not that the answer will be relatively clear by the time Hendricks is actually ready to go.

For now, then, I’m just happy to see each step of Hendricks’ rehab going well. I’d love to see him back out there, fully healed – and mechanically tweaked – from what he was the last couple years. There may yet be some great performances in there.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.