The Rundown: Hendricks Perfect, Cubs Asked About Several Pitchers, Cease Starts

As if seeing Jose Quintana and Jon Lester turn in dominating performances over the last couple games wasn’t good enough, Kyle Hendricks pitched five perfect innings for AA Tennessee Monday night. Assuming all things remain equal, that should have him ready to rejoin the rotation this weekend.

Some of you may question the validity of a performance against minor-league hitters, while others will no doubt be vocally skeptical. And that’s fine, I guess, though I’m not sure why you’d want take that position of negativity. Of course, the box score results from Hendricks’ outing are really not the most important thing here.

When coming back from an injury or, in this case, nagging pain, it’s paramount that a pitcher be able to throw with comfort and confidence. Hendricks has reportedly felt no pain since starting up with side sessions and long toss prior to the break, and the reports from Monday back that up.

While he’s never been known for having a blazing fastball, Hendricks has always had great command of his pitches. Earlier this season, however, both his control and velocity appeared to be down. Might the tendinitis in his right hand have been at fault for those drop-offs, even in a small way?

Hearing that the rangy righty was sitting 85-87 and touching 89 was an excellent bit of news, as was the fact that he needed only 63 pitches to complete five frames. And the other thing: no walks. Adding a healthy Hendricks back to a rotation that features Lester, Quintana, Jake Arrieta, and either John Lackey or Mike Montgomery will be very big for the Cubs as they look to make their move.

Q was answer

When it comes to moves, not many figure to be bigger than the trade that brought Quintana to the other side of Chicago. But the clandestine talks for the lefty stalwart were far from the only discussions the Cubs had when it came to checking in on starters.

“They called the Tigers on Michael Fulmer, not available,” wrote Peter Gammons in a recent daily post. “They checked in on Chris Archer, and were told the Rays think they can make the playoffs and inch closer to a real ballpark. Marcus Stroman would have cost them a player off their major league roster, Gerrit Cole was not available without players off their major league roster. The Athletics talked to them about Sonny Gray, but they preferred Quintana’s consistency, not to mention his contract.”

Not exactly jaw-dropping stuff there, but it confirms what we’ve heard previously and tells you that the front office was very confident in what this team is confident of in the second half. Also that they wanted to leap-frog both the trade and free agency markets.

The bit about Gray might be telling too, as it seems to indicate that his acquisition cost would’ve been on par with Quintana’s, which means any lingering rumors would indeed be strategic in nature.

Rotation setup

I’ve written about this recently already, so this will be short. My preference at this point would be for Montgomery to shift back to a relief role while Lackey stays in the rotation. Not only do I believe Monty is better in  the pen, but it keeps options open should Lackey pitch more like the one start of his last four that wasn’t quality.

Cease’s first start in Sox org

I’m not going to dwell on what the Cubs gave up, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in following Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez. The former had a nice start to his debut with his new organization.

He ended up striking out four batters over five innings, giving up a pair of earned runs on four hits and a walk.

More news and notes

  • Dillon Maples, a potential bullpen option for the Cubs, has been promoted to AAA.
  • At least one industry source thinks the Cubs will acquire Baltimore closer Zach Britton.
  • Jon Lester stole his first base last night and Kyle Schwarber made a catch as he tumbled over a short wall along the third base line. The latter has happened before, but these things taking place in concert is like opening the seventh seal.
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