Cubs News: Roster Talk: What to do with struggling Kyle Hendricks?
Darren Yamashita - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: Roster Talk: What to do with struggling Kyle Hendricks?

by - Staff Writer -

It has been a week filled with a flurry of roster moves. The Cubs transferred Julian Merryweather to the 60-day injured list, optioned Daniel Palencia and Luke Little to Iowa, and brought up Hayden Wesneski and Colton Brewer from Iowa. Then a day later the Cubs activated Jameson Taillon and Patrick Wisdom from the injury list themselves, sending down Miles Mastrobuoni and Hayden Wesneski straight back to Iowa.

However, Wesneski getting sent back down was puzzling to Cubs fans, mainly because of how well Wesneski pitched in his one outing in the majors this season. On the last day of the Cubs' long road trip west, Hayden Wesneski piggybacked Jordan Wicks and delivered four shutout innings, allowing just one hit.

Matt Mervis, who has a .298 batting average with five home runs in the early going of 2024, is Wesneski’s roommate in Iowa. Wesneski was woken up around 1 AM Wednesday with the news he would be called up to the big leagues.

By 4 AM, he had arrived in Chicago and was ready to go to Arizona for Wednesday’s game. After a long night and a day of travel, Wesneski makes it to Arizona — arriving at the ballpark just 90 minutes before the 2:40 CT (12:40 MST) game. He told the reporters that the only sleep he got from 1 AM forward was bad sleep on the flight.

Then he had his number called and delivered possibly the strongest outing of any pitcher out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 2024. His reward? Being sent back to Iowa — that hardly seems fair.

Cubs Manager Craig Counsell told reporters in Arizona: "I thought it was probably our best pitching performance of the year."

If that’s the case, how could you possibly move forward without that pitcher who just delivered one excellent performance as a part of your bullpen that has struggled?

A unit that has easily been the Cubs’ weak link was boosted by Wesneski in a major way on Wednesday — it’s hard to imagine the bullpen moving forward without him. It’s even harder to justify not keeping him in the majors after a performance like that.

Roster-wise, it makes a bit of sense. With Taillon coming back from injury and Justin Steele on his heels — Steele threw live BP and has an extended Spring Training start this week — having Wesneski on the roster is hard to justify — when Ben Brown is being moved to the bullpen and guys like Drew Smyly and Keegan Thompson have already established roles in the bullpen as guys who can offer you multiple innings.

Kyle Hendricks could be the wild card for Wesneski’s future role. Should he go on the injured list or have a start skipped or potentially even designated for assignment (as Hendricks has a 12.00 ERA through five starts), the assumption would be Ben Brown returns to the starting rotation. Wesneski could be a long reliever in the bullpen.

However, even once Steele is healthy, I still think Wesneski could and should have a role in this bullpen. But there are a lot of moving factors. If Steele and Taillon are both healthy and Hendricks is effective, how can you fit one of Javier Assad or Jordan Wicks, plus Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski, into your bullpen?

There should be decisions regarding the pitching staff in the near future. If it were up to me, here is what I would do.

A) Put Kyle Hendricks on the phantom IL once Justin Steele is ready to return. They allow Kyle to work through his struggles in the minor leagues in rehab assignments.

Then your rotation would look like this:

Justin Steele

Shota Imanaga

Jameson Taillon

Jordan Wicks

Javier Assad

Then, your long relievers would be Ben Brown, Hayden Wesneski, and Drew Smyly. The rest of your bullpen would feature Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr, Yency Almonte, and Hector Neris.

You would have to send down Colton Brewer to make room for Wesneski. I would watch Luke Little, as Smyly would be the only lefty in the Cubs’ bullpen. Cuas and Palencia would stay in the minors, hopefully, work through their struggles, and be ready to return to the big leagues should any need arise.

However, this is my opinion, and there are a multitude of decision-makers. The fact is that the Cubs are nearing the point where some of these decisions will be necessary.

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