LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Hendricks felt some discomfort in his throwing shoulder while playing catch in recent days, but he did not deem the issue serious enough to ask out of Friday's start against the Dodgers. Then, the discomfort gradually developed into pain and the pitcher knew there was no
LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Hendricks felt some discomfort in his throwing shoulder while playing catch in recent days, but he did not deem the issue serious enough to ask out of Friday's start against the Dodgers. Then, the discomfort gradually developed into pain and the pitcher knew there was no sense in risking further damage.
Prior to Saturday's game against Los Angeles, the Cubs placed Hendricks on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation and called up reliever Rowan Wick from Triple-A Iowa to fill his spot on the roster. The consensus around the Cubs on Saturday was that the injury was not serious, though Hendricks will undergo testing after the team's return to Chicago to gather more information.
"I'm a little bit concerned, but not overly," Hendricks said. "I feel like I'd be able to tell if something was majorly wrong. The fact that my [velocity] was still there and I could pitch, it's not major."
Whether the issue turns into a larger problem or not, the Cubs are now tasked with filling the vacancy in the rotation and mapping out a return for Hendricks. With the All-Star break a little more than three weeks away, it might make sense to keep the right-hander down through that time period in an effort to ensure the injury really calms down. For now, there is no established timetable for Hendricks' absence.
The injury at least offered an explanation for Hendricks' rough showing on Friday night, when manager Joe Maddon noted that the righty was not getting the type of extension that he typically does at the end of his delivery. Hendricks lasted only 4 1/3 innings in a 5-3 loss, in which he allowed five runs on six hits and ended with one strikeout and two walks.
The Dodgers went 5-for-9 with a pair of home runs against the pitcher's typically reliable changeup, and Hendricks ended with 56 percent strikes thrown in the loss. In his previous eight turns, Hendricks had gone 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA and a 70 percent strike rate. He is 7-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 14 starts this season.
"It's not uncommon for a little shoulder inflammation to pop up here in the season," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations. "You kind of noticed it last night. He had a hard time really finishing his pitches -- left a few changeups up that he normally buries. He admitted after the game that he just didn't feel the way he wanted it to.
"So, I think it was the right thing to do. Let it calm down, treat it, and I don't think he'll be out of the rotation for too long."
With an off-day looming on Monday, the Cubs have the option of proceeding without a fifth starter until Saturday against the Mets. Epstein pointed out, however, that the lack of off-days over the past few weeks may make giving the veteran starters an extra day off a priority. With that in mind, Thursday's series opener against the Mets would be where Hendricks would have fallen in the rotation order.
The Cubs have three options for temporarily filling Hendricks' spot: Tyler Chatwood, Mike Montgomery and pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay.
"I hope I get to, but we'll see what happens," said Chatwood, who made a strong spot start on April 21 against the D-backs. "Obviously, Kyle, he's been dominating all year. To come out like this, it stinks. But, I feel like I can step in and give us quality innings until he gets back if I have to. But, it's not my call. It's up to them."
Alzolay presents the most intriguing possibility for Chicago.
"Alzolay is on a real roll at Triple-A," Epstein said. "And, honestly, we've been planning -- even before this -- to possibly give him a couple spot starts at some point over the next month or so, just to get his feet wet and also give our veteran rotation guys a little bit of a breather during a stretch of schedule where we don't have a lot of off-days."
The 24-year-old righty -- ranked No. 4 on the Cubs' top prospect list by MLB Pipeline -- has spun a 1.93 ERA over his last five starts with 40 strikeouts and only three walks in 28 innings. Opposing batters have hit .194 with a .489 OPS in that span off the right-hander.
As it happens, Alzolay pitched for Iowa on Friday (six innings, two runs, no walks and nine strikeouts), meaning he would be lined up to start again on Thursday. It is also worth noting that the Mets have struggled more against righties (.723 OPS and 95 wRC+) than lefties (.809 OPS and 117 wRC+), making Alzolay or Chatwood the likely candidates.
Epstein also didn't rule out having multiple pitchers make spot starts while Hendricks is sidelined. All of that said, Epstein spoke at length about Alzolay and raved about the work he has done over the past few weeks at Triple-A.
"His curveball's been as good as I've ever seen it the last four or five starts," Epstein said. "He's getting a ton of swings and misses with it. He's pitching really well up in the zone with his fastball. His changeup's really come on, too. So, three good weapons for him and pitching with great rhythm and a lot of confidence, so we'll see.
"We'll see if we can find a way to get him some time up here and also give an opportunity to the guys in the 'pen who's been waiting for their turn as well."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.