Chicago Cubs veteran Kyle Hendricks isn’t making excuses as he hits the IL. Up next: an honest self-evaluation.

Kyle Hendricks did not want to make any excuses.

The Chicago Cubs’ veteran right-hander knows he must pitch better. His execution has been inconsistent, and he hasn’t had many positives to build on as his struggles snowballed over five starts. The expectation of pitching to a higher standard doesn’t change after landing on the 15-day injured list Tuesday with a lower back strain.

Hendricks emphatically said his back is “absolutely 100%” not to blame for the 12.00 ERA he’s put up through the first 3 1/2 weeks, adding there are a lot of other factors.

“Honestly, not concerned about it really whatsoever,” Hendricks said of his back. “It’s just one of those things where we’re at in the season. Luckily we’ve got so many guys throwing the ball so well right now helps a lot. But it just made sense to give it the time to settle down, get out of there and give myself a chance to be back 100% and then try and attack.”

The Cubs got another strong start from the rotation with right-hander Jameson Taillon limiting the Houston Astros to two runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings Wednesday on a chilly night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ four-run first inning stood as their only offense in the 4-3 victory. Dansby Swanson delivered the big hit in the inning, slugging a three-run home run off Astros starter Spencer Arrighetti. The home run represented Swanson’s first in nearly three weeks.

The Cubs (15-9) have scored nine runs in the first inning during this series against the Astros.

“We’ve just been pretty committed to our plans coming in and put some good swings on some balls,” Swanson said. “And it’s a testament to the work that the guys are doing in the cage and obviously the staff is doing to get us prepared for the game.”

Hendricks’ back initially bothered him during a bullpen between starts and then he felt it again when he warmed up pregame, progressing a little through the game but not to the point it hindered him. While Hendricks hasn’t dealt with notable back issues during his career, he had something in his back creep up near the end of last season and was able to keep pitching.

Photos: Chicago Cubs 4, Houston Astros 3

Hendricks said he could have pushed through his current back ailment but reiterated “it made sense where we’re at” to go on the IL. Based on his struggles and the team at the beginning of 16 consecutive games, the Cubs need their starters to give them innings and pitch deeper into games, something Hendricks has not been able to do even prior to his back flare-up.

“Sometimes you have to push through, but, like I said, right now luckily we have so many guys throwing the ball so well making up for that,” Hendricks said. “We’re just going to rely on that. … Why be dumb and push through it at this point?

“That was some of the fear with the shoulder stuff I’d had is I don’t want to go out there feeling something else and compensating in another area like my arm so that definitely played a part.”

Related Articles

While receiving treatment for his back, Hendricks plans to keep his arm moving to avoid any setbacks. He expects to throw a bullpen either this weekend in Boston or early next week in New York. Beyond physically staying in a good spot, Hendricks and the Cubs must dissect what is causing his execution problems and tackle an approach that can address those issues.

Hendricks believes part of the problem is his pitch mix. At times he becomes too reliant on his sinker-changeup combination, and when he is struggling to locate his sinker, the predictability can be problematic. Hendricks bluntly stated that he must get outs with his fastball and rely on the pitch no matter how it might be playing on a given day.

Hendricks is not worried about the negativity he knows is out there, instead focusing on the support of his teammates and from fans when he took the mound Sunday. He’s only worrying about what he can control.

“I have to have honest self-evaluation for sure,” Hendricks said. “I just want to be here for this team by the end of the year. We know where we want to go. We have the team to do it this year and obviously, I just want to be a big part of that toward the end of the season here.”