Cubs 'wait and see' after Hendricks scratch

April 14th, 2021

The pregame announcement that would not be starting for the Cubs on Tuesday night was disconcerting due to the current circumstances surrounding the ballclub.

Roughly a half-hour before Chicago's 3-2 win over the Brewers, Hendricks was scratched after reporting to the team that he was not feeling well. Cubs manager David Ross made it known after the victory that Hendricks tested negative for COVID-19.

"It came back negative," Ross said. "Anybody with a little something right now, we're going to scratch and get him out of here."

Within the past two days, the North Siders have placed four players (Jason Adam, Matt Duffy, Dan Winkler and Brandon Workman) on MLB's COVID-19 related injured list. None have tested positive for COVID-19, but the Cubs had reason to remove them from the team at the moment.

The Cubs are also currently without a pair of coaches -- first-base coach Craig Driver and bullpen coach Chris Young -- after both recently tested positive for COVID-19.

"It's been really stressful," Cubs reliever Pedro Strop said. "Especially today, when a couple minutes before the game our pitcher, he cannot pitch because he's feeling sick. It's really stressful."

Ross said it was a "wait and see" situation, when asked if Hendricks might also need to be placed on the COVID-19-related injured list out of caution. The team has been taking daily COVID-19 tests, dating back to Wednesday, under the circumstances.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta is still scheduled to start as planned on Wednesday, but Ross said the Cubs will reassess their rotation order after Thursday's off-day. If Hendricks is feeling improved and cleared to pitch, there is a chance he could start in the upcoming home series against Atlanta.

With Hendricks under the weather, the Cubs handed the ball to right-hander Alec Mills, who knew about an hour before Tuesday's game that he would be starting. The versatile pitcher then logged four innings in an admirable performance.

Through five outings this season, Mills has already pitched in every inning with the exception of the fifth and sixth. He has made one start, logged a couple multi-inning relief outings, picked up a save and turned in a 2.79 ERA.

"A guy like Alec Mills," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said recently, "you could look back at the end of the year and say a guy like him is going to be like the MVP of our pitching staff."

Overall, Mills and five relievers combined to limit Milwaukee to two runs on three hits in the win. It was the kind of collective effort that would have been expected from a Hendricks outing.

The depleted pitching staff also paved the way for rookie Justin Steele to make his MLB debut on Monday night. In Tuesday's game, longtime reliever Pedro Strop was able to make his return to the Cubs, working one shutout inning en route to the win.

"It feels amazing," said Strop, who had not pitched for the Cubs since September of '19. "When I was jogging to the mound, I got some goosebumps and everything. I was like, 'Man, it's been a long time since I got that type of feeling.'"