Amid 'low point,' Hendricks seeking answers

Cubs DFA Workman, recall Steele; Báez returns to lineup for finale at Atlanta

April 29th, 2021

Kyle Hendricks usually can rely on running through some personal checkpoints in his delivery to get himself back on track. The Cubs right-hander is adept at reading swings of opposing hitters and absorbing and applying feedback from his catcher.

None of those things have worked in this season's first month.

"It's obviously a low point," Hendricks said. "I'm just searching right now. Not right. I'm trying different things out there."

During Wednesday's 10-0 loss to the Braves, Hendricks allowed seven runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. It marked the second time this season he allowed seven runs in a start (both against Atlanta) and the third time he logged four or fewer frames.

The three homers Hendricks gave up on Wednesday boosted his total to 10 allowed in 22 2/3 innings this season. He gave up 10 in 81 1/3 innings in 2020.

"Most of the damage was done on offspeed stuff, the changeup and the curveball," Cubs manager David Ross said. "So he's just not able to command the fastball. And you're falling into counts where you don't want to get beat and you try the secondary stuff that's usually plus. And it's just not as sharp as his stuff usually is."

To that point, opposing batters have hit .400 with an .800 slugging percentage against Hendricks' changeup and .364 with a 1.000 slugging percentage against his curve this season, per Statcast. His sinker (.189 average and .351 slugging) has been effective in terms of results.

Hendricks called catcher Willson Contreras his "No. 1 resource" and said they will continue to tackle the issues that have led to the pitcher's 7.54 ERA in April. The veteran right-hander also did not rule out the possibility that he has been tipping pitches at times.

"I've had some things in the past with that. So I'm just going to go back and look and double check," Hendricks said. "But at the end of the day, even if they know what's coming, if you make a good pitch, you get bad contact. So there's just so much hard contact right now.

"Everything's barreled up. So that just tells me that everything's flat and being telegraphed to the hitter."

Workman out, Steele recalled
The Cubs signed veteran right-hander Brandon Workman with the hope that he could develop into a reliable setup man. After 10 appearances, Chicago saw enough to move in a different direction.

Prior to Thursday's game, the Cubs designated Workman for assignment and recalled lefty Justin Steele from the alternate training site to fill the spot in the bullpen.

"It's just a situation where [Workman] is not in a place to perform the way he and we want him to perform," Ross said. "And we need to make a move and get somebody up here that is pitching a little bit better and try to see what they can do."

The 32-year-old Workman -- signed to a one-year, $1 million contract in February -- posted a 6.75 ERA with 11 strikeouts and seven walks in eight innings. That included six runs (four earned) allowed across two outings in Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday.

Worth noting
• As Ross hoped would be the case, shortstop Javier Báez was cleared to rejoin the Cubs' lineup for Thursday's game in Atlanta. Báez sat out the previous three games after experiencing tightness in his left hamstring on Sunday.

"I hate being out," Báez said. "After I felt it, I felt pretty good about it. I knew it wasn't anything that was going to keep me out more than [a few] days. We've been treating with the trainers since it happened, so I'm feeling really good."

• Going into Thursday's game, it had been a week since closer Craig Kimbrel last pitched in a game for the Cubs (April 22) due to the nature of the games. Ross said he considered using Kimbrel on Wednesday, but he opted against it when the evening turned into a rout for the Braves.

"We had a good conversation in-game. He still feels like he's OK," Ross said. "It's a balance, but you communicate through it, see how he feels, talk to him and just let him get some work on the side, if need be."

• Outfielder Joc Pederson (10-day injured list, left wrist) has been taking batting practice at the alternate training site, but he will join the Cubs on Friday in Cincinnati to continue his rehab.

"That was gold, wasn't it? I got to rewatch that. I was all over it. The reaction between those two human beings was just good for baseball [Wednesday] night. As bad as it sucks to lose, rewatching that ... it was nice to have that light moment at the back end of a crappy game." -- Ross, on Anthony Rizzo striking out Freddie Freeman