Any hopes of Kyle Hendricks starting another game for the Chicago Cubs this year officially ended Monday.
Hendricks was shut down for the rest of the season because of a capsular tear in his right shoulder, which lengthened the rehab process and ultimately prevented a return in 2022. The injury stems from a chronic issue rather than happening on one pitch.
Hendricks won’t need surgery to fix the tear. He plans to head to the team’s complex in Arizona in the next week to start a two- to four-week shoulder strengthening program before building up on a throwing program. His goal is to get a ball in his hand by the end of the season.
“It’s very unfortunate, obviously,” Hendricks said Monday. “You just want to pitch, that’s it. I just want to pitch all year, to be there for my guys every fifth day, to be that consistent competitor. But things get in the way, things happen, so I just have to approach the rehab the same way.
“That competitiveness, man, it’s just kind of festering in there.”
Hendricks’ injury initially was deemed tendinitis when he went 12 days between starts in early June but did not go on the injured list. He received a cortisone shot and tried to pitch through it.
The discomfort popped up again, however, during his July 5 start in Milwaukee, prompting an exit after three innings. An MRI revealed a shoulder strain with a four- to six-week timeline to come back.
After Hendricks remained symptomatic five weeks later, he underwent a second MRI and received a second opinion. That’s when the capsular tear appeared, which recalibrated his time out to 12 weeks.
Hendricks delved into the specifics of his injury before the Cubs’ 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Albert Pujols’ 693rd career homer. Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery threw a one-hitter, with Christopher Morel’s third-inning double accounting for the Cubs’ lone baserunner.
“We just all decided it’d be best,” Hendricks said of shutting down. “There’s really not the time to make up, not the time to get back. So take advantage of fully getting healthy and not trying to push through it at all — attack a full offseason program. That’s where my focus is now.”
A player with Hendricks’ big-league credentials is not immune to the business side of the game. The 2023 season is the final guaranteed year of the four-year, $55.5 million extension he signed in March 2019. The Cubs hold a team option for 2024.
Hendricks indicated that when the time comes, he will discuss his future with the front office. He’s a realist too. He knows he must pitch better in 2023 to earn another contract with the Cubs.
“I need to perform, I need to set myself up to even have those possibilities and those options to stay here,” Hendricks said. “Those are the conversations we had from the top down that for everyone, no matter where this team goes with their route, my value needs to be at its highest next year for any direction we’re going to take.
“I need to pitch to that level again. I need to produce and perform to be a part of this winning culture and the winning that’s going to be coming. I want to be a part of that. So I’m focusing on myself to do as much as I can to put myself in that position.”
The Cubs rotation already has good pieces in place for next season. Marcus Stroman has been at his best since coming off the injured list June 9, posting a 2.23 ERA. over eight starts. Left-hander Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson continue to solidify their status as big-league starters.
Although Thompson is on the 15-day IL with a lower back strain, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Tribune on Monday that the Cubs want to be smart about bringing him back. Hottovy is optimistic Thompson won’t end the season on the IL.
The Cubs could get creative in how they manage Thompson’s and Steele’s workloads. Hottovy mentioned piggybacking pitchers or utilizing days off to incorporate more rest. Hottovy’s main message: “We want to keep these guys pitching.”
Right-hander Javier Assad is the next young pitcher to get a big-league look. He will be called up to start Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals. Assad, 25, has a 2.66 ERA in 23 games (21 starts) between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this year.
Hendricks knows the value of pitching depth and minor-league development. What he has seen from Thompson and Steele, from their maturity to their confidence, contributes to Hendricks’ optimism for the Cubs’ future.
“It’s going to set us up for these future years really well,” Hendricks said, “and it’s going to be exciting to see them dominate this league for years to come.”
Source: Berkshire mont