What Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley’s shoulder injuries have in common

Cubs manager David Ross said Thursday that Kyle Hendricks would not need surgery, based on a recent MRI.

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The Cubs placed right-hander Kyle Hendricks on the IL Wednesday with a strained right shoulder.

The Cubs placed right-hander Kyle Hendricks on the IL Wednesday with a strained right shoulder.

Morry Gash/AP

LOS ANGELES — Dejá vu crept in when Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks landed on the 15-day injured list Wednesday after missing time the month before with shoulder fatigue. Lefty Wade Miley had gone through a similar progression weeks earlier.

“You think about it,” Miley told the Sun-Times on Thursday. “It was a weird spring. It was a weird startup with the whole lockout. Everything was weird.”

Hendricks and Miley’s situations don’t completely mirror each other. Miley also missed the start of the season, his ramp-up cut short by elbow inflammation. But they’re both veteran pitchers who dealt with shoulder soreness last month, returned and then landed on the injured list. 

“I just think anytime there’s a fast ramp-up to the season,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said, “you never know how it’s going to affect guys, or when it’s going to affect guys.” 

Hendricks’ MRI exam in Chicago revealed no surgery was necessary, Cubs manager David Ross said.

Asked if it would be unrealistic to expect a minimum stint, Hottovy said he didn’t have a good sense for the timeline yet. 

“I just know we tried the 15 days last time, without putting him on the IL,” Hottovy said of Hendricks going 12 days between starts early last month. “We kind of tried to give it to him, thinking that was the right thing to do. That worked for a couple weeks. So we’ve got to take that into consideration.” 

The Cubs’ rotation has been hit hard by soft-tissue injuries. Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) and Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) threw bullpens Thursday and, as long as they respond well Friday, are expected to be activated this weekend. 

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay, who was expected to be part of the Cubs’ rotation until he strained his right shoulder a few weeks before spring training, is in the “beginning stages of ramping up,” Hottovy said. Alzolay has been throwing long toss and going through touch-and-feel sessions. 

Miley, however, still hasn’t thrown off a mound. He landed on the IL nearly four weeks ago. Miley described his shoulder injury as a subscapularis strain.

“Hopefully we’re trending in the right direction,” Miley said. “I’m going crazy. But I know it’s a process; I’m not young anymore.”

He threw at 60 feet Thursday but said he “threw with intent.” He told the Sun-Times he shut down his throwing progression recently and had a cortisone injection. He’s played catch twice since that shot.  

“I want to play catch up past 90 feet with no pain before I start thinking about timeline,” Miley said. “But I did play catch today pain-free.”

That hadn’t been the case in about a month, he said. 

“I think a lot of it is the back-and-forth the last couple of years,” Miley said. 

Pitchers went from a full season in 2019, to a 60-game season in 2020, to another full season last year, followed by a shortened spring. That progression presented a challenge for arm maintenance. 

Miley entered this spring behind the Cubs’ other starters in terms of ramp-up. He said then that with the uncertainty of spring training’s start date, the 35-year-old had been careful not to build up too early and wear out his arm. 

Miley told the Sun-Times that he did start ramping up but his progress was halted by an unexplained finger injury three weeks before spring training. And because of the lockout, he couldn’t consult the Cubs’ medical team. 

“I haven’t had a consistent ramp-up,” Miley said. “So I’m hoping we can do that now and somewhat get back to normal.”

For the two of the Cubs’ veteran rotation leaders however, a timetable remains nebulous. Neither is young anymore.

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