Kyle Hendricks has been solid, if not spectacular, in his return for the Cubs

He may not be an ace at this point, but the veteran has played a key role in the rotation

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Given how poorly he pitched the last two years and the fact he was coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, expectations were low when it came to Kyle Hendricks and what he might bring to the table for the Cubs in 2023.

But he's proven himself to still be valuable to the team, even though he's not the quietly dominant force he was at one point. Hendricks showed that calm, unwavering presence on the mound in Friday's loss to Pittsburgh, when it was clear right out of the gate that he didn't have his best stuff.

It's his consistent demeanor that David Ross finds so impactful - and it obviously didn't hurt that the veteran right-hander sorted himself out and wound up giving the Cubs 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Pirates when, early on, it looked like things might get out of hand quickly.

"He’s a big part of us, man. He’s a really big part of our success around here. He’s just a staple whether he goes out and has a great outing or a bad outing. He’s so even-keeled with his work and his demeanor that he’s just really important to this team as a whole."

David Ross on Kyle Hendricks

On the year, Hendricks has given Chicago 104 1/3 innings after making his return, working to a 3.80 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 18 starts. Given the injuries to Marcus Stroman and ineffectiveness of another key piece in Drew Smyly, more or less knowing what you're going to get from Hendricks has been a big plus for Ross and the team.

Cubs have gotten a lot of quality from Kyle Hendricks this season

They haven't all been good, but there's been a lot more good than bad from Hendricks this year. He's allowed more than three earned runs in just three of those 18 outings and has pitched fewer than 5 innings in just three, including his first start back where he was being closely watched. He's kept the Cubs in the game more than he hasn't - and it's translated to a 9-9 record in his starts.

Chicago will need to start coming away with more of his starts down the stretch if they want to return to the postseason for the first time since 2020. But so far, Hendricks has been a pleasant surprise in a year he was viewed as a total wild card heading into the season.