The Cubs are hoping to be able to have veteran starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks ready for opening day, but it seems the team won’t be rushing him back, according to a report from Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times. Hendricks ended the season on the injured list rehabbing a capsular tear in his shoulder that limited him to just 84 innings in 2022.
Per reports at the end of October, Hendricks was a bit behind in his throwing schedule, having hoped to start playing catch by the end of the 2022 season. Instead, that target was shifted to November.
Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy provided an update to Lee, saying Hendricks is on a regimented throwing program and is playing catch off flat ground. Obviously there’s still a fair bit of rehab to go between that and pitching in baseball games, but it seems the Cubs are still hopeful he can be a part of the opening day roster.
“I’m so overly focused on getting Kyle back to being the best version of himself and not rushing it, not pushing it. We all know what Kyle can do when he feels great, when he’s healthy, when he’s locked in,” Hottovy told Lee.
The 16 starts Hendricks made in 2022 was the fewest he’d made in a season since 2014 (excluding the 2020 campaign). While his output has dropped back a bit in recent years, he’s still been a valuable starter over the past few seasons for Chicago, working to a 4.78 ERA over 265 1/3 innings over 2021-22.
The Cubs currently have him penciled into a rotation that also features veterans Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly. Left-hander Justin Steele took a step forward in 2022 and looks set to be the fifth option in that group. That makes for a solid five-man rotation, yet the Cubs have some good options should Hendricks not be ready for the season as well. Adrian Sampson had some success in 19 starts last season, and could get a look, while Keegan Thompson, Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad are all young options who’ve done well in their brief time in the majors.
In the bullpen, the Cubs are counting on the return of Codi Heuer at some stage. Heuer had Tommy John surgery in spring training last year, but Lee’s reports he remains on track for a return to the mound sometime in late-June or early-July. After coming over to the Cubs in a cross-town trade with the White Sox that included Nick Madrigal and Craig Kimbrel, Heuer tossed 28 2/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball in relief. He doesn’t get many strikeouts, but induces a lot of soft contact and with a strong Cubs defense behind him could do well. Heuer is projected for a modest raise to $800K through his first year of arbitration (courtesy of Matt Swartz’ projections) and is under team control for another three seasons.
Sticking with injured relievers, the Yankees bullpen was dealt a significant blow when Michael King went down with a fractured elbow. King had tossed 51 innings of 2.29 ERA ball, and had blossomed into a dominant multi-inning reliever for the Yankees. Chris Kirscher of The Athletic reports that King may not be ready for opening day, calling it a “tad optimistic” to think he’ll be up to speed for the first game of the season. In any event, Kirschner adds that King has begun his throwing program and is “progressing well”, so there doesn’t seem to be much concern that King is at risk of any major setback in his recovery.