Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks looks sharp early in camp


Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon hasn’t locked in the rotation, but if there was a battle–Kyle Hendricks would be on the winning end of it so far.

We’ve talked about the rotation “battle” here at Cubbies Crib this season a few times. It’s true, Maddon has never said that any of last year’s incumbents are fighting for a job–but he also hasn’t committed to anyone beyond Jake Arrieta on Opening Day. Jon Lester and John Lackey will most certainly follow while Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks close things out. If on Selection Sunday, Hendricks was on the bubble? He’s worked his way off of it.

People like myself have gotten more mileage out of the rotation question than the team itself has. Hammel and Hendricks both scuffled at times last year and when your bullpen has three four former starters in it? It’s hard not to speculate about job security. But even if Maddon hasn’t committed to the last two, he gave them a small bit of praise.

"“I can’t deny the incumbents coming back would have some kind of advantage. That’s probably true,” Maddon said. “You just have to keep an open mind. You can’t be deceived by spring training performances. h/t Tony Andracki,"

Hendricks has pitched two outing now and seems to have found his changeup again–which was the pitch that drew comparisons to Greg Maddux. Hendricks had noted a late-season adjustment that helped him toward the end of the year, and it appears the change was said adjustment.

"“[The changeup] is one of the things I lost last year in the middle of the season when I got out of my mechanics,” he said. “Going through what I did last year, learning to make those adjustments, really helped and paid off.”"

Hendricks has now struck out nine batters in 11 innings while allowing just a single run. Striking out near a batter an inning might not be what we should expect from Hendricks, but locating the change will go a long way to getting back to the pitcher he was his rookie season when he posted a 7-2 record and a 2.46 ERA.

Next: Baez and his versatility could pay dividends

The comparisons to Maddux may have been a little bit tongue in cheek, but let’s not forget that Maddux was just 8-18 in his first two seasons with a 5.59 ERA. Hendricks is 15-9 with a 3.49 ERA. This is definitely a case of “what you do from here will define you”.