Chicago Cubs News: Kyle Hendricks throws first bullpen session of 2023

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Some good news came out of Arizona yesterday as veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks has thrown his first bullpen session of the Spring for the Chicago Cubs since being shut down in 2022 for shoulder surgery. We know Hendricks will start the season on the IL, as it has been over seven months since he last toed the rubber.

Over at The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma notes in a new article that it was a quick 15-pitch "touch and feel" session and that he has cleaned up his delivery with a shorter arm stroke. Sharma mentions that Hendricks is about a month behind the other pitchers in camp, and the hope now is that he is on pace for a minor-league rehab assignment in May.

For now, that puts him on pace for a late May/June return. The bigger question begins to loom: What will that mean for the starting rotation moving forward? It will be a big decision for manager David Ross regarding what the Cubs should do with Hendricks. If all five starters are pitching well, and the team is winning ballgames, as we saw at the end of 2022, you have to approach it with an "if it's not broken, don't fix it" mentality.

Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson, and Javier Assad are all in contention for the last spot in the starting rotation. With Hendricks not very far from a return, however, it begs the question of whether or not the fifth starter at the beginning of the season may only have a temporary spot in the rotation.

What will the Chicago Cubs plan be for Kyle Hendricks?

Fortunately, the Cubs have the luxury of time to see what they first have in their starting rotation for the start of the 2023 season. If everything goes off without a hitch, Hendricks' return doesn't have to be a huge decision. If Drew Smyly, along with whoever gets the 5th starting spot, struggles out of the gate, sliding Hendricks right in will be warranted if he is ready to take on the workload. In a perfect world, he can be placed in the bullpen in a long relief role to begin his campaign, fully getting his arm strength where it needs to be. Then, based on his production, the Cubs can evaluate the best option for the team rotation-wise.

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Nevertheless, it's a bridge the Cubs can cross once they get to it. In the meantime, the most important thing is that Hendricks' rehabbing process goes smoothly and that he returns to full strength. After an uncharacteristic stretch of a 4.78 ERA over his last 265.1 IP for Hendricks, healthy will be the key to his returning to form in 2023.