WASHINGTON — It is unknown if Kyle Hendricks will pitch again for the Chicago Cubs this season.
Hendricks, sidelined since July 6 with a right shoulder strain, has taken a step toward a possible return. He is on his way to Arizona to begin his rehab, though there is no timetable for how long his pitching progression and development will take.
The Cubs’ priority is to make sure Hendricks is fully healthy heading into the offseason. He’s a household name at this point in his career, so any playing action would be to set him up for 2023 rather than an evaluation process, like the Cubs might want for right-hander Adbert Alzolay.
Alzolay, who has missed the entire season with a right shoulder strain, has been taking live batting practice in Arizona and will ideally throw a few innings, including in the minor leagues, before the season is over.
A healthier, more consistent Hendricks would be a boon to the 2023 rotation. He and the Cubs want to avoid an offseason scenario that would require him to continue rehabbing his shoulder. Hendricks previously indicated that he wants to make a few starts before the season ends.
The Cubs won’t rush Hendricks unnecessarily, especially with enough inside options, even at Triple-A, to fill the rotation down the stretch.
A healthy Nick Madrigal is showing what he can bring to the Cubs’ lineup when he feels better.
Madrigal entered the Cubs’ series against the Washington Nationals batting .391 (9-for-23) with four walks and a .500 on-base percentage in 29 plate appearances in eight games since returning from a strain in the left groin.
“Seeing him develop is rewarding for him and for us,” manager David Ross said.
In his last three starts, including Monday’s 5-4 loss at Nationals Park, Madrigal’s production has come from being placed in the leadoff spot. He doubled and scored on the seventh Monday and went 1-for-5.
Part of Ross’ calculation for hitting Madrigal stems from wanting the second baseman to get as many at-bats as possible after missing time the past two years due to injuries.
“The leadoff position is probably a little bit more base-driven,” Ross said, “but the way he hits, the at-bats he’s had, giving some walks since he came back, the whole-field approach that he’s had — he’s got real bat-to-ball skills, just thinking about how he does it. It can be really frustrating from a starting pitcher’s standpoint that some of these guys can spray him a little bit.”
Madrigal’s approach as a leadoff hitter — being patient to give teammates more looks at the opposing pitcher’s stuff or looking for a pitch early in the count — is up to the pitcher.
“I’ve always tried to be an aggressive hitter,” Madrigal told the Tribune. “Being in a leadoff spot, it’s really just the first at bat of the game is the only difference. But (my approach) really depends on the pitcher.”
Madrigal is also looking for places to be more aggressive on the bases now that his legs feel much better. He has been on a process of gaining strength after last year’s hamstring surgery, followed by a lower back strain and groin strain that caused him to miss about two months this year.
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Madrigal has stolen two bases this season after stealing three in 83 games over two seasons (2020-21) with the Chicago White Sox.
“I can start to test a little bit, but it’s something that has always been a part of my game,” Madrigal said. “I haven’t had a chance to show it much. But hopefully that will come in the future.”
The Cubs clearly want to make sure left-hander Wade Miley is fully healthy this time around without facing another setback.
Miley is scheduled to make another rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A Iowa, his fourth rehab outing as he recovers from a left shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list June 11.
Inflammation in his left elbow frustrated the veteran earlier in the season before his shoulder problem surfaced in May. In his first start outside the IL, Miley lasted just three innings with a recurrence of the injury.
Miley had thought her bullpen sessions simulated enough of a game situation to test her shoulder. This time around, she’s taking on a more comprehensive preparation through multiple rehab appearances.
“We’re trying to get him back in the rotation as soon as he’s healthy,” Ross said. “But we’ll wait and see how he gets out of that start.”