ATLANTA -- After throwing five hitless and scoreless innings in his second rehab start at Double-A Tennessee on Monday, right-hander Kyle Hendricks knew he was ready for a return to the Cubs' starting rotation.
"I felt so much more comfortable than in my first start," said Hendricks. "I felt right out there facing hitters, and felt mechanically right. My rhythm felt good, and I executed many more pitches. Now I feel confident and ready to go."
Hendricks, who has been on the disabled list since June 5 with inflammation in his right hand, led the Major Leagues with a 2.13 ERA last season. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter while throwing 63 pitches (43 strikes), and he threw 12 more pitches in the bullpen to reach the 75-pitch limit assigned to him.
"I felt under control, and the two-seam [fastball] had good depth and the four-seam [fastball] was on plane," Hendricks said. "Also, my curveball felt good and my changeup had good depth as I got swings on it. I think it was right where I needed it to be."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was encouraged and said Hendricks will pitch at least one more bullpen session before being activated off the disabled list for a start next week.
While the official starting rotation hasn't been announced, Maddon hinted that he will have Jacob Arrieta pitch Friday's series opener against the Cardinals. Jonathan Lester is expected to pitch Saturday, and Jose Quintana will likely pitch the series finale on Sunday.
The reason was to accommodate Thursday's off-day and pitch Lester on regular rest. Maddon will likely try to get Hendricks ready for the home-and-home series vs. the White Sox next week.
"He will get another workout in, and he will figure in for next week at some point," Maddon said. "For him, it is really being careful and cautious with him."
Hendricks said he will be ready whenever his name is called, and he is glad to be back in the clubhouse and around the energy surrounding the club. Hendricks also mentioned that he is looking forward to learning from newly acquired Quintana.
"It is going to be awesome to watch him and learn from him, as he is the pitcher that I try to be," Hendricks said. "You know what you are going to get every time out with him -- that is consistent and solid starts -- and it is going to be fun to watch."
The Cubs had won four straight entering Tuesday's game against the Braves at SunTrust Park. They were 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central and will face them July 28-July 30. Maddon hopes that with Hendricks back, the starting rotation will take off in the upcoming weeks.
"It is almost as if you get two acquisitions with Quintana, and Kyle coming back," Maddon said. "You get two starting-pitching acquisitions, and that is what I am mentally looking at going forward."