Kyle Hendricks goes 3 innings in rain-abbreviated return from IL; Cubs await Cole Hamels timeline

Pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay was optioned to Class AAA Iowa as expected Tuesday to clear a roster spot, the day after a poor start in Pittsburgh.

SHARE Kyle Hendricks goes 3 innings in rain-abbreviated return from IL; Cubs await Cole Hamels timeline
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates

Hendricks skipped an originally planned minor-league rehab start to return to the mound Tuesday, two weeks after shoulder inflammation landed him on the IL.

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — The return of one key starting pitcher and a “not awful” medical report on another didn’t stop the Cubs from falling behind quickly on the road again Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

But given Kyle Hendricks’ apparent return to health and the upbeat first impressions of Cole Hamels’ MRI exam, the Cubs figure they have a chance to hit reset at the All-Star break and maybe even have one of their trademark strong starts in the second half. That’s assuming they didn’t already miss their best chance to make their move in National League Central over the last six weeks.

Hendricks, who missed the last two weeks after experience soreness in his shoulder during his start in Los Angeles on June 14, was activated from the injured list to start Tuesday against the Pirates. He gave up two runs in three innings before storms moved over Pittsburgh and delayed the game.

Hendricks was already on a strict pitch limit, and the delay ended his start at 55 pitches. But barring a setback overnight, he should be ready to start Sunday against the White Sox in the Cubs’ final game before the break.

Hamels, meanwhile, is the bigger concern after leaving his start Friday after just one inning because of a strained left oblique. The left-hander was one of the hottest pitchers in the majors with a 1.00 ERA in five June starts before that.

“We still don’t have any timetable, but he’s feeling a lot better quicker than we anticipated,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday, the day after Hamels’ MRI. “The results were not overtly negative in any way, so it was all good news. We were encouraged by the results.”

That doesn’t suddenly turn a six-week injury into a three- or four-week proposition. But the Cubs plan to allow Hamels to continue treatment and rehab through the All-Star break before evaluating him for a throwing schedule and tentative return timeline.

Hamels had a more severe strain in his right oblique two years ago and missed two months before returning — by his estimate — earlier than he should have.

“He’ll start throwing relatively soon and see what it feels like, and then you have to build him back up,” Maddon said. “But we’re really grateful it wasn’t that bad as we anticipated.”

Alzolay out — for now

With Hendricks’ activation, the Cubs optioned rookie starter Adbert Alzolay to Class AAA Iowa, as expected. That was planned even before his poor start Monday in an 18-5 loss to the Pirates.

The move allows Alzolay to pitch in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game. Maddon said the Cubs are still formulating plans for their rotation out of the All-Star break. He wouldn’t speculate on where Alzolay might fit in that mix.

Meanwhile, the wheezing Cubs bullpen got a fresh arm in left-hander Randy Rosario, who was recalled Tuesday from Iowa, replacing right-hander Rowan Wick, who was optioned to Iowa.

Edwards update

Right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. (left upper back) wasn’t sharp in his first minor-league rehab appearance Monday and is scheduled for another relief outing for Iowa on Thursday. He walked the first of four batters he faced Monday, then gave up a hit, got a strikeout and gave up a run on a fielder’s choice grounder.

International signing day

The Cubs agreed to terms with three touted Venezuelan amateur players, including the top-ranked international amateur catcher, Ronnier Quintero ($3 million signing bonus), on the first day of the signing period, sources confirmed.

The other two players are shortstop Kevin Made ($1.5 million) and catcher Brayan Altuve ($1 million).

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