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Chicago Cubs: Are we giving up on Wood and Hendricks too soon?

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There is still time for both to up their game

The first month of the Chicago Cubs season is in the books, and we’re already halfway into May. Compared to past seasons, we might as well be in the NLCS. Two game over .500 is a welcome change. But even after a promising start, there are still a lot of questions–and holes–with this team. One that continues to come up–and we’ve had several discuss it here at Cubbies Crib–is the backend of the rotation. Or, more specifically,

Kyle Hendricks

and

Travis Wood

.

Some have already cast out Wood following last season, believing that his All-Star season of 2013 was his pinnacle, and what we’re seeing now is the norm. But just as this season has been, it’s a handful of absolutely dreadful games overshadowing quality outings. I made that observation earlier in the spring in this post, but it seems to be happening again. Two bad starts (6 ER vs STL, 4 ER vs MIL), and everyone is looking for a new guy to slot into the rotation.

There’s no denying Wood hasn’t reached the levels he did in ’13, and in time if the Cubs hope to be a consistent contender, he either has to greatly step up his game or the Cubs need to find someone different. But that’s a case of trading for a top of the rotation starter and sliding down the rest of the staff. Not replacing Wood with another No. 4 guy.

Hendricks falls somewhat in line with the same thinking, in that he was spectacular in his rookie season last year, but hasn’t been that same pitcher this year. After being compared frequently to Greg Maddux not just for his stuff, but being a master of his craft–Hendricks has looked more like a rookie this year than last. So was he a flash in the pan?

Neither of them needs to be discounted yet, and for several reasons. Skipper Joe Maddon is handling each pitcher with different gloves. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester (who don’t forget was winless in April and many thought was wasted money) more often are allowed to pitch deeper into games as pitch counts allow. The same can be said for Jason Hammel to a degree. But for Wood and Hendricks, neither has thrown 100 pitches in a game yet–but on a few occasions it can be argued they should have.

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I reference Lester for the same reasons that these two can’t be discarded. No, Wood and Hendricks aren’t Lester with his track record and pedigree. But both are capable arms, once Maddon takes the training wheels off the two of them. In 12 starts, they’ve factored into only five decisions. They may not have always pitched well, but they never really had a chance to win or lose a game. They simply were pulled before the opportunity.

In the long run, the Cubs will need to add another arm–whether it be Cole Hamels in a trade with the Phillies, Noah Syndergaard from the Mets or possibly a free agent this offseason. But for now, these two need that chance to prove they do or don’t belong before the Cubs’ faithful starts looking around for their replacements. And besides, the Cubs don’t really have many options in-house to replace them–so they’ll have to do for now. Unless you’re dying to see Edwin Jackson get another shot.

Next: A's Kazmir: One of their replacements in Chicago?

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