The Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks has sat among the league’s best in the past few seasons–even without top notch stuff. 2017 hadn’t gone as we hoped, and now tendinitis has Hendricks on the ropes. Was this a cause for his struggles, or is it more than that?
Last season, Chicago Cubs‘ starter Kyle Hendricks won the NL ERA title by posting a 2.13, just ahead of teammate Jon Lester‘s 2.44. Hendricks seemed the most unlikely to win the award with his style of pitching. A high-80’s fastball mixed in with his two changeups looks like a batting practice pitcher, not a top-tier starter. But 2017 has been far from the glory that he experienced last season. It’s been that way for most of the Cubs’ staff, but especially Hendricks.
Then came the news that he had some discomfort in his hand and would head to the 10-day DL. The hope was that Hendricks could get some rest and would return this weekend against Pittsburgh. But after throwing a side session on Tuesday, it was clear that things weren’t getting any better for him. The Cubs decided to have Hendricks undergo another MRI to be sure they didn’t miss anything. The first showed the tendinitis, but that appeared to be it.
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The difficulty now is figuring out who we’ve watched pitch this season. Was this version of Hendricks the “true” version, with this injury simply a sign that he hasn’t been outstanding this year? Or was the tendonitis the reasons for his struggles? While neither of these helps the Cubs now, it may help them soon while they await his return.
Little margin for error
Hendricks has had a much smaller window for error when he’s on the mound. While he lacks “stuff,” he’s always made up for it with control and scouting. So either he’s lost that part of his game, or the injury was affecting him more than he or the Cubs realized. Whichever the case, the Cubs will be in a tough situation until they have clarification from his second MRI.
The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta has been bothered by a cut on his thumb since earlier in the year. John Lackey is simply getting older, and his body isn’t letting him do what he needs to do. When he was a No. 4 starter last year, that was all right. But because of injuries, he’s the No. 3 guy this year and that’s not working out well.
The Cubs are relying on Mike Montgomery and Eddie Butler to carry the load that’s been left by the rest of the staff–but that’s TBD. This team has been hot or cold, with nothing in between. There’s always that outside chance that all the Cubs have to do is make the playoffs, and they could be dangerous. If that’s the 21-game stretch they get hot for? That’s all they need. But it could also be a quick four games if the offense is still trying to put it together and this pitching staff is in this state in October.
For now, Joe Maddon will be without Hendricks this weekend in Pittsburgh as the Cubs try to pick up the pieces from series against the Mets in which they lost a 4-1 lead in the finale to fall to the Mets, 9-4. The Cubs fell back to under .500 after dropping two of three to the Metropolitans.