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Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks set to return, bolster team’s starting rotation

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 04: Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field on June 4, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 04: Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field on June 4, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs get another key piece back on Monday in the form of right-hander starter Kyle Hendricks, who returns from the disabled list.

Since the All-Star Break, the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation has been lights-out. The addition of left-hander Jose Quintana seems to have breathed life into the staff. One day after the death of his uncle, Jon Lester took a perfect game into the sixth. Up and down the rotation, it’s been one strong start after another for these Cubs’ starters.

And, come Monday, they’ll get another pick-up with the return of Kyle Hendricks. The reigning MLB earned run average champ will make his first start since June 4 as he comes back from hand tendonitis.

Last year, Hendricks finished third in National League Cy Young voting, behind Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester. This season, however, has been a different story for the soft-tossing right-hander.

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One of the biggest thorns in Hendricks’ side this season has been the base-on-balls. Last year, he averaged just 2.1 walks per nine. But this year, that average shot up to over three free passes per nine, leading to the increase in his WHIP from 0.979 to 1.200. Without that pinpoint control, he’s been hit harder – opponents are taking him deep more often than they did in 2016, as well.

"“Felt mechanically, right,” Hendricks said after his last rehab start, a five perfect-inning outing. “My rhythm felt right. Executed many more pitches. I feel pretty confident.”"

Hendricks’ return helps entire staff

With Kyle Hendricks returning to the starting rotation, the bullpen will get a shot in the arm, as well. Mike Montgomery will head back to the bullpen, adding another quality lefty to the pen for manager Joe Maddon.

The rotation will feature Hendricks alongside Quintana, Lester, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta. Lackey said flat-out he won’t pitch out of relief, all but ensuring Montgomery heading back to a swing role in the pen. Arrieta, meanwhile, has pitched much more effectively of late, adding quality to the Cubs’ rotation.

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If Kyle Hendricks can come back and give that same quality – not 2.00 ERA ball, either – just average middle-of-the-rotation starts, Chicago will take another big step forward. Milwaukee is still searching for rotation help and their lead has vanished. A healthy Hendricks back in the mix could prove to be the nail in their proverbial coffin.

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