The difficult conversation regarding Kyle Hendricks is getting hotter for the Cubs

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

It was another rough one for Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday night in Arizona. His final line was 4.1 IP, 7 earned runs, five hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. He had fallen behind 4-1 after giving up homers to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Joc Pederson and was charged with three more runs in the fifth when he loaded the bases with one out, all runners would score after Luke Little came in.  

Hendricks saw his ERA swell to 12.71 in four starts, and per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, he is the first MLB pitcher to allow 5+ earned runs in his first four starts since 2019. He is the first Cubs pitcher to do this since the earned run became official in 1913. Hendricks has been so good and so important to the Cubs organization, and we have seen him get off to slow starts in seasons past, but this is looking particularly rough and beyond the typical career April struggles. It gives some Cubs fans shades of 2021 Jake Arrieta.

Craig Counsell really tried to get him through five, at the least, with a taxed pen, but it did not work out. It was not unlike last week in San Diego when Counsell tried to preserve his bullpen as best as he could with Hendricks to no avail. Also, similar to his San Diego start, he looked really sharp in the first inning Tuesday before things started to go south.

It has no doubt been a tough task for Hendricks to start his first four games on the road against the defending champion Rangers, World Series favorite Dodgers, Padres in San Diego and the defending National League champion Diamondbacks. Expecting dominance at this point in his career in those matchups was hard to expect, heck a 4.8 ish ERA over that span would have even been fine, but that was not the case.

With every rough start, the conversation intensifies with the upcoming return of Jameson Taillon, and Justin Steele hopefully on the horizon. Couple in the fact that prospect Ben Brown has looked promising in his last few starts and Javier Assad continues to be effective. One could speculate on how Brown’s workload will be managed as he’s getting acclimated to the Majors, but even he has earned more looks for the time being and it’s difficult to ask Assad (2.16 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in three starts) to leave the rotation right now.

The Chicago Cubs may have a Kyle Hendricks' problem.

Now, there would arguably be bigger incentives to want to wait it out longer with Hendricks if the starting depth was more limited and there was no group of guys coming back or coming up in the near future. Or if the rotation was fully healthy and dominating and Hendricks just needed to eat some innings as a five. That is just not the case, and it makes Hendricks more of an odd man out right now.

In reality, Hendricks will more likely than not make his next start assuming no surprising move or injury. The leash could be much longer for Jed Hoyer and Co. than the fanbase.  Hoyer on 670 the Score the other day sure did not indicate they are close to pulling the plug. He is slated to get his next start at home against the Marlins at home for the time being. It’s also unknown which version of Taillon will show up post-injury. Will Taillon, right off the bat, be a better pitcher than Hendricks considering the rust? That remains to be seen. In a few weeks when Steele (hopefully) comes back, then there really are conversations to be had depending on what transpires.

It's a hard situation to be in, considering what he has done for the organization, and he should be considered an all-time fan favorite for his services over the years. History says to give him the benefit of the doubt, but nothing lasts forever, especially the way baseball has evolved over the recent years to a high-velocity and “stuff” game. He will probably get a few more looks but the evaluation has to be serious.