Another Successful Rehab Start in the Books for Kyle Hendricks, Who Could Return Soon
Another solid rehab start for Chicago Cubs veteran Kyle Hendricks means we’re on the doorstep of his long-awaited return from a capsular tear that cost him much of the 2022 season and the start of this 2023 season.
Hendricks threw 5.0 innings of two-run ball (one run scoring after he departed), allowing six hits and two walks while striking out four. Per the Des Moines Register, he felt good again physically, and feels more and more where he needs to be mechanically:
Hendricks was up to 79 pitches in the outing, which means he’s good to go now on a pure pitch count basis. Does that mean he’s on his way back to the Cubs this week? Are the Cubs eager to swap out Hayden Wesneski after his homer-laden outing in Minnesota, and give him some time to work at Iowa?
Still not clear.
From the sound of things, since Hendricks won’t be traveling with the I-Cubs to Indianapolis this week – at least not initially – Hendricks and the Cubs are at least leaving open the possibility that he could come back to the big league team this weekend. It’ll probably depend on their evaluation of how he’s feeling today, how the tape looked, and how the match-ups project.
Even though Hendricks started a day after Wesneski, the Thursday off-day means the Cubs COULD slot Hendricks into Wesneski’s spot on Friday to open up the weekend series in Philadelphia. It’s also possible the Cubs could let Wesneski go on Friday and then have Hendricks return later in the series. It’s also possible Hendricks could simply get another rehab start this weekend with Iowa.
We’ll get a clue before tonight’s game in Houston one way or another: if the Cubs are sure Hendricks is going to return and is going to displace Wesneski, then the Cubs might option Wesneski as soon as today in order to get a “free” player up until Hendricks arrives. If there is no roster move today, I’d say it’s slightly more likely that Wesneski does get one more start.
It’s also possible – unlikely? but possible – that the Cubs would allow Wesneski to appear out of the bullpen in the Astros series if absolutely necessary, and then option him to Iowa for Hendricks over the weekend. I don’t think the plan will be for Wesneski to go to the bullpen for a longer stretch than that (as opposed to going to the Iowa rotation), but I suppose that, too, is a possibility. (The goal for him should be to continue developing as a big league starter, because there’s a lot of talent there; I can see the arguments for doing that in the big league bullpen or at Triple-A Iowa.)
Long story short? It’s still unknown what the precise plan is for Hendricks and Wesneski. But we know Hendricks is probably more or less ready to go now, and he does figure to take Wesneski’s spot in the big league rotation at some point either this time through or next.
I’m eager to see Kyle Hendricks back not only because I want to know what he has left in the tank for contributing this year and into the future with the Cubs (the guy is only 33 and is finally healthy!), but also because I want to know if this kind of comprehensive physical remaking of a veteran starting pitcher can work.