Is this the end for the Cubs and Kyle Hendricks? Craig Counsell says no

GettyImages 2148856549

CHICAGO — Amid the worst stretch of his career, the Chicago Cubs placed Kyle Hendricks on the injured list with a strained lower back before Tuesday’s game at Wrigley Field, pausing the speculation about what to do with one of the most impactful pitchers in franchise history. It’s still natural to wonder if this is the last we’ve seen of Hendricks in a Cubs uniform.

“No, I don’t think that at all,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “No.”

Hendricks was the biggest name involved in a series of roster moves before the start of a series against the Houston Astros and a run of 16 games in 16 days. Hendricks’ alarming ineffectiveness went beyond his usual slow start to the season, creating questions about how much longer the club would remain patient.

“Kyle is not pitching the way he wants to pitch,” Counsell said. “Kyle’s got very high expectations of himself. So when we get past this injury, he’ll go back to work. He’s going to commit to doing everything he can. Having an effective Kyle Hendricks is something that’s going to make this team better.”

Hendricks reported the back issue after Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Miami Marlins, according to Counsell. Hendricks felt something during his warm-up routine in the bullpen, Counsell said, and as the game went on, “it creeped up a little more.”

Hendricks’ ERA actually dropped from 12.71 to 12.00 after giving up four runs in four innings against an unimpressive Miami lineup. The positives from that outing (five strikeouts, no walks) were apparently not enough to keep going forward. The Cubs have won just one of his five starts, which have overextended the bullpen, making the situation untenable.

“We’re not going to stop looking for answers,” Counsell said. “And I know Kyle’s not.”

As an opposing manager, Counsell watched Hendricks excel with pinpoint command, efficient pitch sequencing and a fastball that barely touched 90 mph, if at all. Hendricks became one of the most effective pitchers in the game while Counsell worked for the Milwaukee Brewers. There is a deep, mutual respect between Hendricks and Counsell, though perhaps not the same sense of loyalty.

Hendricks, 34, is an exemplary teammate and a great resource for young pitchers. He started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, helping end a championship drought that lasted more than a century. He led the majors with a 2.13 ERA that season and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on the night the Cubs won their first National League pennant in 71 years.

Among the franchise’s all-time leaders, Hendricks is in the top 25 for wins (93), starts (251), innings pitched (1,470 2/3) and strikeouts (1,188), a body of work that already cemented his legacy.

“Everybody respects that,” Counsell said. “It doesn’t just go away, right? So you search for answers. Players struggle. And even players that have had a lot of success in the league aren’t immune to struggles as well. They’ve figured stuff out during that success.

“You always keep that in mind. You never take lightly the accomplishments of someone like Kyle Hendricks.”

As recently as last season, Hendricks posted a 3.74 ERA across 24 starts, convincing the Cubs to pick up the $16.5 million option in his contract for this year. That comeback was the result of a comprehensive, deliberate program designed to let his right shoulder heal and allow him to focus on his overall strength and athleticism. Those improvements were keys to slightly boosting his velocity and fine-tuning his mechanics.

The Cubs and Hendricks will now go back to the drawing board.

“We’ve got to get past an injury first,” Counsell said. “And then put our heads together on a plan to get him pitching better.”

(Photo: Matt Dirksen / Chicago Cubs / Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top