Cubs set to receive major boost with return of Kyle Hendricks to starting rotation

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Class is back in session.

Ahead of their game on Sunday against the Reds, the Cubs announced that Kyle Hendricks will start on Tuesday against the Pirates.

Hendricks last pitched on June 14 against the Dodgers, landing on the injured list a day later with right shoulder inflammation. While the 29-year-old didn’t go on a rehab assignment, he threw a bullpen session on both Wednesday and Saturday, the latest steps in what has been an “encouraging” recovery for the right-hander.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Thursday that Hendricks returning before the All-Star break was possible, though nothing was set in stone at that point.

"It is possible. We're not excluding any of that," Maddon said Thursday morning at Wrigley Field. "He's doing really well and he's feeling really good. If everything plays out properly and it looks like it's the right thing to do, we will. But we're still gonna listen to him and his body, but he sounds really encouraging right now."

Hendricks’ return to the rotation comes on the heels of fellow starting pitcher Cole Hamels landing on the injured list with a left oblique strain. The Cubs will know more about Hamels’ injury on Monday after he undergoes an MRI. The veteran left-hander suffered a right oblique strain in 2017 that kept him out for two months, though he doesn’t think the injury is going to be as bad this time around.

Hendricks returning means that Tyler Chatwood will slide back into his role as the long-man out of the Cubs bullpen. Chatwood was expected to return to the bullpen before Hamels got hurt. After the injury occurred, though, there was a chance that Chatwood started next week, if Hendricks wasn’t ready to return.

In Hendricks, the Cubs are getting back one of their most consistent starting pitchers this season. In 14 starts, he holds a 3.36 ERA and 1.143 WHIP, striking out 75 batters compared to 16 walks in 88 1/3 innings pitched. However, he went 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA in eight starts from May 3 to June 9, going on a tremendous run before his shoulder injury.

The Cubs haven’t announced any corresponding moves to make room for Hendricks on the active roster yet. Including Chatwood, though, the team currently has 10 relievers on the 25-man roster, so someone from the bullpen will likely be sent back to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Hendricks. 

The Cubs also announced that Carl Edwards Jr. will begin a rehab assignment with Iowa on Monday. Edwards has been on the injured list since June 13 (retroactive to June 10) with a left throracic strain.

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