Cubs go back to the drawing board when it comes to the starting rotation

Ben Brown and Jordan Wicks' injuries are a major blow to the team's rotation depth.
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Friday marked the return of Jordan Wicks to the Chicago Cubs starting rotation. Unfortunately, that return was short-lived, with the left-hander leaving the game due to an oblique injury. Earlier in the day, Craig Counsell revealed Ben Brown's IL stint will stretch beyond the initial 15-day stint as the team formulates a timeline for a stress reaction in his neck.

That's two big blows to the rotation coming in short succession, meaning the likely return of veteran Kyle Hendricks, who came on in relief of Wicks on Friday, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings and keeping the Cubs in the ballgame right up until the end. The hope is Hendricks' recent run of success can translate into success in the rotation, but we all know how the season has gone for the veteran.

“But I think an outing like today is proof that that's how Kyle conducts himself and goes about his day," Craig Counsell said after the game. "It’s to be ready for the next opportunity, no matter what is going on, or no matter what's happened in the past. And I thought today was a great example of it.”

Losing Ben Brown for a stretch would be a tough blow for the Cubs

Brown has been masterful for the Cubs this year, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen to great success, with a sub-3.00 ERA since a rocky debut in the opening series against Texas in late March. Losing him for any significant stretch will be a major loss for a team barely hanging in the postseason race and entered Saturday at 33-37, two games out of the final wild-card spot in the NL.

With Wicks, it's frustration more than anything else. The left-hander worked his way back from the IL, made one relief appearance before Friday's start, and - just like that - he's back on the shelf. After a strong showing last summer in his first big league stint, suffice to say this isn't how he envisioned his 2024 campaign going.

So assuming Hendricks is, indeed, back in the mix, Counsell will have Shota Imanaga, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon and Javier Assad rounding out the rotation for the time being. The team's starting pitching has been its lone strength, really, ranking third in the National League in ERA behind only the Phillies and Dodgers.

Losing Brown and Wicks won't help matters and makes the margin for error even smaller than it already was. But this group - outside of Hendricks - has held up their end of the bargain so far this season. More than anything, it's about every other area of this team getting things cleaned up if the Cubs are going to turn things around.