With something to prove, Kyle Hendricks takes another big step in his quest to return

MESA, Ariz. – The following time Cubs followers see Kyle Hendricks on the mound, they could discover a slight distinction. The veteran righty has had a constant supply all through his profession. One he would methodically work on and finetune at any time when even the slightest problem arose.

However Hendricks has gone by means of his two hardest years in the previous two seasons. In 2021 he posted a 4.77 ERA, the primary time he’d been above 4.00 in his profession, and gave up an MLB-worst 200 hits. He nonetheless managed to push over the 180-inning mark although. He adopted it up with 16 begins of 4.80 ERA ball, ending his season on July 5 as a balky shoulder simply didn’t enable him to really feel proper.

With that shoulder damage, Hendricks hadn’t stepped on a mound once more till late Friday morning at Cubs camp. It was there that Hendricks confirmed off his new shortened arm motion in a 10-pitch “contact and really feel” bullpen session.


“It’s the primary actual enjoyable I’ve had in in all probability seven and a half months,” Hendricks mentioned. “Who’s counting although?”

Hendricks’ arm motion isn’t drastically completely different, however the discerning eye will discover a distinction. Beforehand, from hand break, he’d carry his proper arm far again behind him, stabbing backward and increasing his arm absolutely at a ninety-degree angle from his physique. Now, his hand goes down, the arm path is far shorter – which means he doesn’t go as far again – and he rapidly comes again up to his ear and fires to the plate.

Kyle Hendricks’ first bullpen since final summer season. Very fast, 15ish pitches, only a “contact and really feel” as he informed us earlier in the week. Arm stroke is somewhat shorter which has been what Hendricks has been centered on and what we had been informed months in the past.

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“That was the opposite big optimistic from at the moment,” Hendricks mentioned about having the ability to carry the brand new arm motion to the mound. “With the coaches standing again there, how a lot the whole lot translated from the work I’ve been doing. All my catch play, the whole lot else, my arm path was faster and it was transferring. Clearly I used to be transferring fairly sluggish with the contact and really feel, however the whole lot in my physique was in sync and transferring sooner. After I begin getting after it extra and get into an actual bullpen, that ought to translate much more. So we’re very proud of how that’s moved over to the mound now.”

It took Hendricks for much longer than he had hoped to cease feeling ache in his shoulder. At one level, there was a thought that he might return for the 2022 season. That by no means occurred. The shoulder simply by no means felt proper and he’d frequently really feel it whereas taking part in catch. Not till December did he restart an actual throwing program. For somebody who sometimes throws usually and likes to hold his arm recent, the method can get tedious and it could actually put on on one mentally.

That’s partly why Hendricks has to watch out not to rush this. Another optimistic step can lead one to need to fast-forward by means of what will likely be a sluggish build-up.

“Now we’re going to actually have to be affected person,” Hendricks mentioned. “It felt so good on the market, that’s going to be the exhausting half now. It’s been three months this far and I’ve been affected person with that. Fortunately I will be affected person after I want to be. I simply have to lock in on the method. I’ve all people right here serving to me and conserving me on path, which helps a ton.”

Typically supply adjustments can alter the kind of stuff a pitcher throws. A pitcher identified for a selected repertoire could also be higher fitted to completely different pitches, they see a velocity uptick or a change in motion profile. That’s not the expectation right here. That is merely hoping to get Hendricks trying like his outdated self whereas additionally not placing as a lot pressure on his shoulder.

“Not completely different, extra again to who I’m,” Hendricks mentioned a couple of days prior to his bullpen session. “Who I do know I will be, the conventional motion I get. After I was feeling some stuff final 12 months, the whole lot was simply flat. I didn’t have extension, I couldn’t get by means of the ball. It’s getting again to these mechanics and staying over the rubber. We’re considering the arm path is simply going to assist well being total.”

Certain sufficient, even in that transient bullpen session, Hendricks received optimistic suggestions on his pitches.

“It helped rather a lot having (catcher Yan Gomes) again there,” Hendricks mentioned. “That’s why I used to be tremendous grateful for him coming over there. He is aware of me, he is aware of what to anticipate. He goes, ‘Man, that’s you.’ Motion was good, angle, on the backside of the zone, throwing strikes over the plate. So actually I couldn’t ask for something extra from at the moment.”


When a high-level athlete is abruptly not doing what they do greatest for the primary time in some time, it could actually take them to locations they fight to keep away from. Ideas of the damage not fading absolutely crossed Hendricks’ thoughts. Surgical procedure wasn’t possible, but it surely wasn’t off the desk. If that occurred, what else? Would he ever be the pitcher he as soon as was? Would he even step on a mound once more and expertise MLB motion? These are the worst-case situations that may pop up in the darkest moments, however a day like Friday helps push them apart.

“Bodily I’ve been feeling good,” Hendricks mentioned. “However you simply by no means know. You step on it and also you get sore, however in good locations. It’s been so lengthy, you simply by no means know what you have got. Going by means of the entire strategy of the conventional catch you’d do for a pen or to get free for a recreation, going by means of a pair pitches on the mound and all of it going effectively and feeling nice, all of it helps mentally.”

Hendricks nonetheless has extra hurdles to clear. He’s somewhat greater than a month behind the remainder of the pitchers in camp. The hope has to be that he could make some minor-league begins by Could and ultimately return to big-league motion early in the summer season. That’s assuming no extra setbacks and that he appears like his outdated self on the mound.

There are not any ensures in this recreation. It wasn’t way back that Hendricks was getting Cy Younger votes and serving to lead a robust Cubs rotation. For a time period, he was as dependable and constant as any starter in the sport. From 2014 to 2020, he was fifteenth in WAR (FanGraphs) amongst starters with solely six pitchers (minimal 1,000 innings pitched) — Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke and Chris Sale — posting an ERA higher than his 3.13 in that span.

Now he’s out to present that he can nonetheless be the pitcher that quietly dominated on the mound and put up numbers comparable to a number of the greatest ever to do it.

“I’m a aggressive man,” Hendricks mentioned. “I’ve something I need to show to myself.”

(High picture: David Banks / USA As we speak)

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