Kyle Hendricks hasn’t pitched since July 5 due to a persistent shoulder issue and he may not return to complete what has been the worst season of his career to date. The veteran righty told reporters on Sunday that he’ll be heading to Arizona after this homestand to begin a throwing program, but that his focus is to build up for 2023 and not to prepare for additional games this year. While that isn’t a definitive statement about shutting it down, it’s about as close as you can get.
Kyle Hendricks was in clubhouse postgame. He said he'll head to Arizona after this homestand with the goal of resuming a throwing program. But the veteran pitcher said his focus is on getting right for 2023 and having a full offseason — not on returning to games this season.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 21, 2022
Hendricks has only managed to throw 84.1 innings in 2022, which is three more than in 2020, but he has made 14 starts this season versus just 12 in that truncated campaign. His 4.80 ERA and 5.02 xERA are both career-highs and his 0.3 fWAR is a career-low. He also allowed a career-worst 1.60 home runs per nine innings, surpassing the 1.54 HR/9 mark from last year.
With the exception of a few starts here and there, Hendricks just couldn’t seem to settle into a rhythm. We see evidence of that in a 6.19 1st-inning ERA, though what happened two innings later is even more telling. Hendricks has been dogged by slow starts throughout much of his career and he’s typically been able to overcome them by dialing it in over the remainder of the game.
He seemed able to do that in the 2nd inning this year, but his 3rd-inning ERA of 5.63 is nearly two full runs higher than in any previous campaign. By the time he got to the 5th, that mark jumped to 8.18 as he allowed a .360 average 1.105 OPS. It’s pretty clear the shoulder was bothering him to a greater extent than he wanted to let on.
Both Hendricks and the Cubs are hoping this extended ramp-up into next season allows him to rejoin the rotation as an effective starter once again, though the organization has a few pitchers ready to claim a spot should one open up. With all the signs pointing toward a good deal more activity on the free agent market, Jed Hoyer is still going to need to add a front-line starter just to be sure. Even if Hendricks can get back to some semblance of his previous form, he’s only under contract for one more season.
Given all the roster wrinkles, I’m just glad I’m not the one holding the iron.