Kyle Hendricks’ rehab start sparks question about Cubs’ pitching staff

Kyle Hendricks' return to the Cubs appears to be happening much sooner than many Cubs fans hoped for.
Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs
Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs / Griffin Quinn/GettyImages

For anyone hoping that the Chicago Cubs were going to stash Kyle Hendricks on the IL for the foreseeable future, Thursday's development will come as a surprise.

Hendricks was placed on the 15-Day IL last week with a back injury, and while it's likely that there was some discomfort that the veteran starting pitcher has been dealing with, the roster seemed to be more about kicking the can down the road on a possible permanent decision regarding the veteran's spot on the 26-man roster.

That is the reason why there is some surprise that Hendricks has already begun a minor-league rehab assignment. Hendricks made the start for the Tennessee Smokies on Thursday.

The curious case of what to do with Kyle Hendricks.

The start that Hendricks had for the Smokies on Thursday is the best-case scenario for what to expect when he returns to the Major League pitching staff. This version of Hendricks is not capable of sitting at the top of the team's starting rotation but, minimally, needs to be able to five innings while keeping the Cubs in the game.

The question becomes what role will Hendricks have on the Cubs' pitching staff when he returns. Javier Assad has been brilliant as a member of the starting rotation this season and his success is a continuance from last season.

In an ideal world, the Cubs would keep Assad in the rotation while Hendricks pitches out of the bullpen making the occasional spot start. The problem with that is that A) the Cubs' bullpen is leaking, and B) Hendricks does not have the velocity to be successful out of the bullpen. Those underlying factors are likely the reason why Hendricks will return to the starting rotation upon the conclusion of his minor-league rehab assignment while Assad shifts to the bullpen to provide the group with another legitimate out-getter.