As expected, Kyle Hendricks will be activated soon to rejoin the Cubs’ rotation. He’s actually in Chicago now and could pitch Friday or Saturday after a strong performance for the I-Cubs in Indianapolis this past Sunday. The Cubs were able to get him that final Triple-A start due to having off days on either side of the Phillies series, so now Hendricks can come back with a start against the Reds.
— Sam Bernero (@sambernero) May 23, 2023
In a move that isn’t quite anticipated or obvious, the Cubs have also promoted flame-throwing righty Daniel Palencia to Triple-A Iowa. This comes just 12 days after he was placed on the development list following five rough starts at Double-A Tennessee, which is both a quick and unexpected turnaround.
Daniel Palencia is in Iowa pic.twitter.com/GywgGQggPD
— Stan (@Crewsett) May 23, 2023
The reason for both the short time in Arizona and the rapid promotion to Tennessee is that Palencia was placed on the dev list in order to be converted to a relief role. Given the disappointing performance of the bullpen, this likely indicates a desire to get Palencia to Chicago at some point in the relatively near future.
Acquired in the Andrew Chafin trade a little under two years ago, Palencia has showcased a triple-digit fastball with a wipeout slider that has led him to 168 strikeouts over 132 professional innings. The 23-year-old has been used almost exclusively as a starter, making just one relief appearance, but he completed five innings in only four of his 38 minor-league starts.
My assumption is that the Cubs had him on a pretty short leash in terms of determining what his eventual role would be, which makes a lot of sense in light of his future. Palencia will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if he’s not placed on the 40-man roster by then, so the organization wants to see if working as a reliever gives him a chance to make the most of his prodigious talent.
Velocity isn’t everything, of course, but it was pretty darn cool to see Nick Burdi hitting 101 the other day against the Phillies. The Cubs haven’t had that kind of heat in a long time, so the potential of stocking the bullpen with multiple hard throwers is very tempting. Palencia’s got the kind of swing-and-miss stuff that could make him a very legit high-leverage reliever in a hurry.
It’s probably a little too early to get your hopes up about that happening soon, but the fact that he’s already in Iowa means the front office is at least considering that possibility.