Saturday, May 25, 2024

Class Dismissed? Decision Looms For Cubs On Kyle Hendricks

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In 2012, the Chicago Cubs decided it would be best to consider the future when they traded pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were in pursuit of their first World Series championship after coming so close in two years in a row. Unfortunately for them, that was not the part of the trade that helped lead to a World Championship. That part would be the Cubs receiving right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

Fast-forward to the 2016 season. With his 16-8 record and 2.13 earned run average, Hendricks finished third in Cy Young Award voting. He earned the right to take the ball for the most important game in Cubs’ franchise history—Game Seven of the 2016 World Series. He gave the Cubs 4.2 innings before being pulled early, and the Cubs eventually went on to win their first championship in 108 years.

With his ability to force batters to give him outs, Hendricks was compared to the great Greg Maddux. But since the title run, Hendricks has been unable to find consistent results as easily as he once did. Despite injuries of late, he’s been a constant in the Cubs’ rotation. His comeback last year gave the Cubs hope that he was finding new life and returning to his old ways. But his start to the year has been anything but that.

Not A Great Start For The Professor

Kyle Hendricks made his first start in the season’s second game against the Texas Rangers. He could not make it out of the fourth inning after giving up five runs on nine hits. He gave up five runs on eight hits in four innings in his first home outing of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then, it did not get any better in San Diego.

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Seven runs on nine hits in five innings was the line for Hendricks on Wednesday in a 10-2 loss to the Padres. Accumulatively, Hendricks now sits with a 12.08 earned run average in 12.2 innings pitched. It’s easy to argue that it’s early, and he faced three formidable lineups. The Rangers, Dodgers, and Padres have three of the best offensive attacks in the league.

But what’s most concerning is the adjustments batters make in their second time seeing Hendricks in a game. They are absolutely teeing off on him in the middle innings. He’s never been a hard thrower, but he’s always been able to get his outs. Now, he is throwing soft and not getting outs. And with outside circumstances about to come to fruition, change is on the horizon for him in the Cubs very, very soon.

Decision Time For Cubs On Kyle Hendricks

Jameson Taillon is in the midst of his rehab assignment, recovering from a back injury that kept him out of the entire spring training. He could be back as soon as the end of this road trip. Additionally, ace Justin Steele will be returning to the rotation when he is back sometime in early May.

Two places in the rotation are bound to change upon Taillon and Steele returning. Javier Assad has done enough to prove he has earned a chance to stay in this rotation. So far this season, he has a 1.64 earned run average in two starts with a total of eleven innings pitched. He is getting his outs and going for at least five innings.

If Assad remains in the rotation, the last spot will be between Hendricks, Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, or opting for a bullpen day. Of those four options, Hendricks feels like the least productive. It’s hard to say, but the days of Hendricks being an essential part of the rotation have come and gone. His best place on this team now may be what former starter Drew Smyly is providing: two or three middle relief innings.

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blockwood9
blockwood9
Apr 12, 2024 6:49 pm

It’s a shame Kyle is off to a tough start. But, he is a cerebral pitcher, not a power pitcher.
I believe he will figure it out. This early in the season, with cooler temps, I think he will improve as warmer weather sets in. Till then, he’ll have to tap into his vast experience to keep the team in games. IMO

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