Kyle Hendricks Headed to Iowa for Rehab Start (UPDATE)
UPDATE: As hoped/expected, Kyle Hendricks will now head to Iowa to make his first rehab start of the year.
Another positive step in the process:
You would tentatively expect Hendricks to go three or four innings, and 45 to 60 pitches in Thursday’s game for the Iowa Cubs.
Although Levine references a mid-May return for Hendricks, it’s possible it could be earlier than that, depending on how this outing goes and how he feels. I still don’t expect he would be back after just one rehab start, but it’s possible he could need no more than two. If that’s the case, then he would be back to the big league Cubs to make his season debut on the earlier side.
*original post follows*
When the Chicago Cubs shut down Kyle Hendricks last year, later revealing that he had a capsular tear in his shoulder, I don’t know that I would’ve said it was an absolute lock that we would see him again. Shoulder injuries are scary, especially for pitchers in their 30s, and Hendricks had struggled so much the last couple years that there was at least some small chance – however painful to contemplate – that we’d seen the end without knowing it.
I think we can confidently say we’ll see him again. And soon.
Hendricks pitched this weekend in Arizona, throwing three innings and about 45 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game. David Ross told Cubs.com that Hendricks looked and felt good, and Jed Hoyer said that Hendricks has, at times, even touched 90 mph with his fastball in Arizona. We know that Hendricks’ offseason mechanical work was designed largely with his health in mind, but we also know that improving velocity was also a consideration. So, Hendricks touching 90 mph – which is where he was at his absolute best (sitting 88-ish, touching 90) – is extremely encouraging.
The expectation now is that Hendricks will head out on a minor league rehab assignment. He last started on Saturday, so that could come as soon as Thursday.
In an ideal world, Hendricks would be ready to come back to the big leagues this week, sliding right into the rotation spot vacated by Jameson Taillon as he hit the Injured List. Realistically, that isn’t going to happen, even as the Cubs will push back that need for a fifth start to at least Saturday. I just don’t think it would be wise to ask Hendricks to go from three innings in an Extended Spring Training game right into a big league start, especially after so much missed time with a shoulder issue. The Cubs will continue to be cautious.
That said, it is conceivable that, if Hendricks goes four innings and 60 pitches in his upcoming minor league rehab start, and again feels completely healthy, he could return that next time through the rotation (and thus the Cubs would need only one more fill-in start). I wouldn’t say that’s likely, but based on everything you hear about Hendricks’ rehab so far, it certainly seems possible.
Once Hendricks does return, obviously there will be some things to figure out with the rest of the rotation. But that, in turn, depends on how quickly Taillon can return from the groin strain, as well as how Hayden Wesneski is performing at the time. Bridges to be crossed in the future. Near future, hopefully.