Chicago Cubs News: Kyle Hendricks nearing return at the best possible time

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San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Chicago Cubs fans, if you found yourself feeling an impending sense of doom after yet another blow-up Jameson Taillon start, do not panic– Actually, panic would be acceptable with all things considered, but let’s keep our eyes focused on some good Cubs pitching news that we desperately need right now: Kyle Hendricks is almost back. 

As the veteran slowly inches towards his return, his fifth rehab start with Iowa on Saturday looks like it might very well be his final one before rejoining the club in Chicago for the first time since early July 2022. 

Saturday’s start against the Indianapolis Indians saw the righty going six innings of just one-run ball while collecting six strikeouts along the way, earning himself the win in game one of Iowa’s doubleheader. 

The rehab stint hasn’t been an easy one for Hendricks, giving up 10 earned runs across 4.2 total innings in his two early rehab starts, but has since bounced back in ways reminiscent of the “Vintage Kyle” that Cubs fans (mostly myself) still view him as. In his last three starts with Iowa, Hendricks has posted a 1.69 ERA in that span while going at least five innings in each of the three starts, finally working his way up to 82 pitches in his most recent start.

Hendricks has made a few trips with the Cubs this season for bullpen sessions in between rehab starts, a recipe that has lined the starter up for success as his return to the rotation is imminent. 

“I was with them in Houston, throwing another bullpen, and just working on more things and trying to take that into the game today,” Hendricks said. “Really established my fastball down and away, threw good changeups off of that, and was able to establish some heaters in, too, flip in some curveballs. I really executed everything I thought I needed for my game and was really happy with how I finished. I felt a lot stronger at the finish today with my pitch count.” 

Throughout the rehab stint, added velocity has been a focal point for the veteran, and Saturday yielded the best results thus far with a fastball sitting at 88-89 MPH all night, topping out at 90.2 MPH for the highest it has been since starting his rehab assignment. 

Hendricks wasn’t the only solid performance for Iowa today, with Hayden Wesneski starting game two of the doubleheader and lasting five scoreless innings while racking up five strikeouts. Wesneski saw some issues with command as he surrendered four walks, but still nonetheless a promising performance, and hopefully, the news of two starters giving up just one earned run in 11 combined innings will take some of the pain away from today’s 12-3 loss. 

The Cubs and their pitching woes are obviously far from being solved, and it was pretty evident with Taillon today, but with Hendricks on the cusp of returning, it might not be completely hopeless if the success in Iowa were to carry over.

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