Cubs Badly Need Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels to Fully Heal

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If the Chicago Cubs are going to actually pull away from the Milwaukee Brewers and the rest of the NL Central, they’ll need their pitching staff to come correct. Here at the MLB All-Star break, the only true assessment of the Cubs is to label them as meh so far, and that fits in perfectly with the rest of the extremely mediocre division.

What’s the key to the Cubs snapping out of it and claiming the division crown?

It’s the health of their starting rotation, so maybe they should take out some sports insurance on their pitching staff. Staff ace and 2016 ERA champion Kyle Hendricks recently missed two starts due to right shoulder inflammation. That’s his throwing shoulder by the way.

Meanwhile left-handed starting pitcher Cole Hamels (who is currently being rumored to as heading back to the Philadelphia Phillies to finish out his career) was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a left oblique strain on June 29th. It will be interesting to see what kind of pitcher the Cubs are getting back after the break.

An oblique, or side strain, is much more serious and painful than it sounds. The injury is caused by tearing of the transversalis fascia or the internal oblique muscle. This make stretching the oblique muscle severely painful, thus limited the range of motion within the arm, and typically swelling or bruising may occur.

The Tampa Bay Rays announced over the weekend that relief pitcher Jose Alvarado suffered the same injury after he left Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees.

While Major League Baseball clubs obviously have access to the best medical staff and most cutting edge treatments, these kinds of expensive resources won’t help you here. The preferred treatment route for an oblique strain is simply regular rest and inactivity on the affected muscle.

Hamels, 35, is entering the last phase of his MLB career. He was acquired by the Cubs from the Texas Rangers almost a year ago as the headliner of a four-player trade. He’s 6-3 in 17 starts with a 2.98 ERA and 3.0 WAR. The  unrestricted free-agent at end of the season has been magnificent this season, but who knows how effective he’ll be after he recovers fully from this medical setback.

As for Hendricks, he needed 86 pitches to complete four innings on Sunday in his second start back, which resulted in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

He pitched only three innings on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, which was his first action back from the FL.

“I felt healthy, which is really good, but my timing, I felt a little off,” he said after the game yesterday.

Kyle Hendricks, who finished third in CY Young Award voting in 2016, went 7-7 with a 3.49 ERA in the first half of 2019. He was dominant at home with 1.65 ERA, but has been pretty much awful away from Wrigley Field (5.44 ERA) so far.

There are plenty of good prescription drugs for treating inflammation (or anything that ends in “-itis” for that matter, with Meloxicam being a popular drug of choice for battling these kinds of specific ailments.

Hendricks, Hamels and Jon Lester have been the Cubs’ only reliable starting pitchers this season. Jose Quintana has been wildly inconsistent and Yu Darvish will go down as among the worst free agent signings in club history.

While the NL Central is very weak, there is also not a lot of margin for error. Of the three strong Cubs starting pitchers, one is currently injured while a second is not fully himself yet. If the Cubs top of the rotation falters in the second half, due to not being 100% fit, then they simply won’t be around for the playoffs.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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