How the Cubs should handle their rotation when Kyle Hendricks returns
The Chicago Cubs have a wealth of starting pitching options at their disposal this season, and they do not even have Kyle Hendricks healthy yet. This means there will be a decision to be made with the rotation when the Professor makes his long-awaited return to the mound. And this decision is looking like it will be in the near future as Hendricks is currently on the 15 day IL, not the 60 day.
Although Hendricks has struggled for the past two seasons - with a 4.79 ERA in 48 starts since the beginning of 2021 - he will likely be inserted back into the rotation upon his return. This is the final year of Hendricks' contract with the Cubs, and he has spent his entire big-league career in Chicago. The man has pitched some big ball games in a Cubs uniform, and he deserves a chance to return to his former glory.
The only question is, who do you move out of the rotation to make room for Hendricks? After the abysmal outing on Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, the choice seems pretty clear to me. Drew Smyly is the weakest link in this rotation and he will very likely be moved to the bullpen when Hendricks returns from his shoulder injury. This will be a good move on all fronts as the Cubs are in need of a lefty in the bullpen with Brandon Hughes currently the only option, and he is also on the IL with a knee injury. Although Smyly has only made one start, he surrendered 9 hits and 6 earned runs to a bad Reds lineup. If he continues to get shelled in his future starts, the southpaw seems destined for the bullpen, and rightly so.
Hopefully Hendricks can find his groove again, as we have seen him pitch like an ace in the past.
After all, it wasn't long ago that he posted a 2.88 ERA over 12 starts in 2020. A bad year in 2021 and the capsular tear in 2022 brings us to the present day. The soft throwing right hander threw a bullpen session on March 31st according to MLB.com, and he is expected to face live batters soon. If his progress continues to be positive, a return in late April is not out of the question.