Cubs-Braves pitching probables cast further doubt on Kyle Hendricks' future

The struggling veteran faces an uncertain future, despite his standing in the clubhouse and Cubs history.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs find themselves between a rock and a hard place with Kyle Hendricks. The last remaining piece of the team's 2016 World Series championship has started some of the biggest games in franchise history and has been a rotation staple for a decade. But now, he looks like a shell of his former self and has proven to be a major liability.

In his start over the weekend, Hendricks was roughed up for 7 runs (8 earned) over 4 2/3 innings of work, allowing 11 hits - including a half-dozen two-strike knocks. His start looked particularly egregious given what Paul Skenes did opposite him, tossing six no-hit innings and punching out 11.

“We certainly need better,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “That’s not going to work. And that’s not going to be good enough.”

Despite a flurry of injuries, Chicago is 26-22 heading into Tuesday's series opener at Wrigley against the Braves. A brilliant start to the season by Shota Imanaga and Javier Assad has buoyed the team, helping them overcome a 2-5 record in Hendricks' seven starts. But the Cubs' pitching probables for this week are setting off alarm bells when it comes to the right-hander's future.

Chicago Cubs may skip Kyle Hendricks in his next scheduled start

Based on timing, Hendricks' spot in the rotation comes back around on Thursday, currently listed as 'TBD'. Injuries have no doubt forced the team to be more patient with Hendricks, despite ranking as one of the least effective starting pitchers in the entire league.

The question then becomes what to do with the crafty veteran. It's hard to envision his arsenal playing well out of the pen. Do you eat the $16 million and cut ties? Given the pitching staff has been pummeled by injuries, that doesn't seem likely. But paying that amount for a guy only suited for mop-up duty isn't a particularly enticing pill to swallow either.

This has all the makings of an abrupt end to Hendricks' Cubs career, similar to what we saw with Jake Arrieta a few years ago. Chicago has given him as long a leash as possible, but with no major improvements seen, it's hard to envision him playing a role on this team deep into the summer.