Kyle Hendricks Not Being Rushed, Opening Day Readiness Still ‘Best-Cast Scenario’

Kyle Hendricks has been in Mesa since last fall as he works to rehab from a capsular tear in his right shoulder that hampered his performance and cost him much of the season. His plan is to work through a Driveline-inspired throwing program aimed at increasing his velocity as he enters the final year of his contract with the Cubs. Unlike the explosive movements his veteran righty is working on, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy wants to take things slow.

‘‘I’m so overly focused on getting Kyle back to being the best version of himself and not rushing it, not pushing it,’’ Hottovy told Maddie Lee of the Sun-Times. ‘‘Because we all know what Kyle can do when he feels great, when he’s healthy, when he’s locked in.’’

Hottovy added that having Hendricks healthy for spring training and available in the rotation by Opening Day is the “best-case scenario” at this point, which makes it sound unlikely. But with Jameson Taillon added and Drew Smyly back on a two-year deal, the Cubs don’t need the last remaining member of the World Series roster right away.

And when you consider how poorly Hendricks has pitched over the past two seasons, there’s absolutely no reason to speed up his return and risk further issues with health and/or performance. If that throwing program works, however, getting the 33-year-old back to his old (young?) self would be a tremendous boost to the starting unit.

The Cubs could very well stretch that group to six as well, using Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay as long relievers who can mitigate what could be limited outings from the starters. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Hendricks can come back in short order and pretend like 2021 and ’22 were just bad dreams.

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