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Kyle Hendricks will make a rehab start for Iowa this Thursday

The righthander is on the road to return to the Cubs.

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Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

Cubs righthander Kyle Hendricks, the last remaining active Cub who played for the team in the 2016 World Series, had two rough years in 2021 and 2022 and has not pitched in a game at all since a three-inning outing at Milwaukee July 5, 2022.

Diagnosed with a shoulder injury, Hendricks chose rehabbing it rather than surgery and has gone through a carefully designed routine of side throwing and bullpen sessions.

Now, per Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register, Hendricks will make a rehab start for Triple-A Iowa this Thursday:

Hendricks is expected to pitch for the Iowa Cubs as part of a rehabilitation assignment Thursday at Principal Park, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. Hendricks hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July 5, 2022, due to a shoulder injury.

The Iowa Cubs play the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, at 12:08 p.m. Thursday. Hendricks, the last remaining member of Chicago’s 2016 World Series championship team, is expected to be on the mound assuming he comes out of a Tuesday bullpen session with no complications.

Hendricks hasn’t had any setbacks or complications with previous bullpen sessions, so I think this rehab start should come off as scheduled.

This doesn’t mean an imminent return to the Cubs for Hendricks. I wouldn’t expect him to throw more than two, maybe three, innings Thursday, and then he’ll probably need three or four more rehab starts before he comes back to the Cubs rotation. That would put a target date of mid-May for his return.

Hendricks is 33 and before the shoulder issue, had been one of the more durable members of the Cubs rotation. One of the reasons his return has been delayed so much was to help him get back to a point where his changeup was more effective:

The veteran righty also implemented drills with the aim of regaining some velocity. Hendricks will always rely on command and deception, but the Cubs saw a drop-off that impacted his effectiveness.

“We wanted to push his velocity up as much as possible,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “When he was winning ERA titles and those things, he was touching 90 and then it had come down. He’s not Mason Miller throwing 102 mph, but when he throws 88-90, his changeup is much more effective.”

The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Hendricks for 2024, with a $1.5 million buyout. You’d think that if Hendricks could return to anywhere close to his previous effectiveness, the team would exercise that option.

Hendricks has always been one of my personal favorites and I’m rooting for him to return. With his pitching style, if he can return to having that changeup being effective, he might be able to throw several more seasons. Here’s hoping.