Cubs Manager Announces Drastic Move on Struggling $56 Million Veteran

Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks

Getty Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks

Over the course of his venerable Cubs career, Kyle Hendricks has carved out a place in team history. But with the way the 2024 MLB season has gone for the 34-year-old veteran, perhaps it is his days as a starter that are history.

On Tuesday, manager Craig Counsell announced officially what many assumed was coming: Hendricks would not start on Thursday and would move to the bullpen. He is 0-4 this year with a 10.57 ERA, a 1.989 WHIP, a league-high 36 earned runs allowed, and, as has become tradition for 2024 Cubs pitchers, a stubborn injury (back). The slash line for batters facing Hendricks: .362/.411/.638.

Counsell characterized the Hendrick demotion as temporary, though. He hopes.

“Our pitching is precarious enough right now that we can’t (be) committing to anything long-term, we are going day by day with a lot of this right now and I think we should,” Counsell said, per the Chicago Tribune. “The goal still is to get Kyle on track and get him back in the rotation. That’s absolutely what I’d like to do.

“He wants to do what he can to help the team. I mean, that never wavers for Kyle. He doesn’t have to be happy with it, but I think he still knows that he’s going to do whatever he can to help the Cubs win games.”

Cubs Injuries Have Been Devastating

Injuries have devastated the Cubs all season, particularly in the starting rotation. Ace Justin Steele went down on Opening Day with a hamstring injury. He pitched well in his initial return on May 6, but has not been right since, allowing 10 earned runs in his last two outings.

Jameson Taillon started the season on the DL but has pitched well since returning in mid-April. Jordan Wicks pitched five games before going out with a forearm problem last month, though he is nearing a return.

The saving grace for the Cubs has been the emergence of Shota Imanaga as the best pitcher of the season’s first two months, with a 5-0 record and a 0.84 ERA, plus the surprise performance from Javier Assad (4-0, 1.70, with some command struggles on Tuesday).

Hayden Wesneski, too, did well in three fill-in starts. Still, this is not the rotation the Cubs envisioned, and it’s not clear what Hendricks could do to warrant promotion back to a starting role.

Kyle Hendricks Has Place in Cubs History

It’s an unfortunate turn for Hendricks, who had looked like he’d bounced back from down years in 2021 and 2022 with a solid performance in 2023. He’d suffered a shoulder injury and had to be shut down, but came back strong last year with a 3.74 ERA over 137 innings in 24 starts.

That nudged the Cubs to take a gamble on keeping him in the rotation this season, picking up a $16.5 million option on his contract this year, part of a four-year, $56 million contract extension he’d signed in 2019. The feeling was that 2023 showed Hendricks was back on track, and that the previous two injury-wracked seasons were the outlier. But perhaps last year was the outlier.

When team president Jed Hoyer spoke about Hendricks, it almost sounded like a eulogy for his fine Cubs career.

“Our job is to win as many games as we possibly can,” Hoyer said, per The Athletic. “But as a human, I can’t imagine any better teammate. I can’t imagine anyone more accountable. This guy’s been sort of a metronome for nine or 10 years, and he’s pitched some of the biggest games in club history.

“At this point, nothing he could ever do here forward should have any impact on his time here. He’s been an amazing member of the pitching staff and an amazing part of the organization.”



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