The Chicago Cubs have gained some insight into Kyle Hendrick’s right shoulder strain.
An MRI showed no structural damage, and he will not need surgery, manager David Ross said Thursday. But the Cubs don’t know when Hendricks will be back on the mound.
The team wants to get through the four-game series at Dodger Stadium — which opened Thursday night with a 5-3 loss — and return home before getting a better idea of Hendricks’ timeline.
“You knew he was dealing with something, so it’s unfortunate,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Thursday. “But he’s such a gamer. He was going to keep trying to go out there and grind it for the guys. He knew where we were. But it’s unfortunate for Kyle.”
This is the second time Hendricks is dealing with a shoulder issue since early June, when he went 12 days between starts because of fatigue. That makes Hendricks’ situation more concerning. Asked whether it would be unrealistic to expect Hendricks to need only a minimum stint on the injured list, Hottovy replied, “I don’t know, to be honest.”
Hendricks did not travel with the Cubs to Los Angeles, staying in Chicago to get treatment on his shoulder. The layoff in June enabled Hendricks to make five starts until shoulder discomfort caused him to exit Tuesday’s start in Milwaukee after three innings.
“I just know we tried the 15 days last time without putting him on the IL, we kind of tried to give it to him thinking that was right thing to do, and obviously it didn’t quite work (except) for a couple of weeks,” Hottovy said. “So we’ve got to take that into consideration.
“Now we’re kind of back to that same spot so how do we reevaluate moving forward what the next steps are going to be to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Cubs are being cautious while they await to get a fuller picture of Hendricks’ injury. But if anything can be gleaned from left-hander Wade Miley’s situation in which he deals with a similar injury to what delayed his start to the season, Hendricks’ return could be measured in weeks, not days.
Miley, who has been out since June 11 with a left shoulder strain, played catch Thursday. He is still working through a throwing progression. Miley needs to get to a point at which he is feeling strong and repeating good long-toss days, Hottovy said, before he works up to throwing a bullpen.
The Cubs rotation should get a boost this weekend, though. Right-hander Marcus Stroman and left-hander Drew Smyly are expected to be activated from the IL and start against the Dodgers. They both threw a typical prestart bullpen Thursday, and if they feel good coming out of it, they will slot back in the rotation. The Cubs have not yet announced who will start Saturday and Sunday. Justin Steele would have been in line to start Saturday, but he is in Chicago awaiting the birth of his child.
Hottovy is optimistic Smyly and Stroman will be ready to go against the Dodgers.
“Anytime you get reinforcements, it’s always refreshing,” Hottovy said. “The last thing you want to do is push guys just because you feel like, oh, my gosh, we need them and making decisions that’s not best for them. But both of those guys are feeling great.”
The Cubs still have one potential arm to help them during the final two months of the season. Right-hander Adbert Alzolay has worked up to long toss and a 10-15 pitch touch-and-feel throwing session, though he is still in the early stages of ramping up, Hottovy noted. Hope remains that Alzolay will return at some point this season from his right shoulder strain.
Left-hander Brailyn Márquez’s status remains unclear. Hottovy said he hasn’t been getting many reports on Márquez and that the goal is to get him feeling good. Márquez has not pitched in a minor-league game since 2019. He made his big-league debut in September 2020 and did not pitch last season because of a shoulder injury and dealt with myocarditis after a bout with COVID.
Hottovy said Alzolay is “starting to trend in the right direction,” though the Cubs want to make sure he builds up the right way and they don’t rush him back.
“Anytime we can get him to compete this year, it’s going to be a bonus for next year,” Hottovy said. “Because if you start getting too far into the season where he doesn’t have those innings, now you’re talking about next year: What’s the workload going to be like? How much can we expect? So I think whatever we can get this year, even if it’s for the last month this season and he throws 35-40 innings, that’s a bonus.”