Cubs will start Kyle Hendricks in Monday’s Cactus League opener

Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Chicago Cubs kick off Cactus League action on Monday, they’ll hand the ball to the undisputed ace of the staff in Kyle Hendricks.

Hendricks, 31, was his typical self in last year’s shortened season, twirling 81 1/3 innings of 2.88 ERA ball for the North Siders. With Yu Darvish now in San Diego, if there was ever any doubt about whose staff this is, there isn’t any longer. ‘The Professor’ will head the team’s rotation on paper and in just about every other aspect this season.

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"“The whole time we’ve kind of had that March 1 day pegged for Hendricks,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told NBC Sports Chicago. “That was kind of going to be it the whole time just as you kind of work backwards from the start of the season. Even though we lost some games at the beginning [when the spring schedules slightly shortened recently], it was actually going to line up perfectly for Kyle.”"

Oddly enough, Chicago will take on Darvish’s Padres on Monday. Last year at this time, folks were debating who would get the Opening Day nod for the Cubs: Hendricks or Darvish, who had finished the 2019 season riding high and finally living up to the hype that had surrounded him when he signed with the team prior to 2018.

Cubs will go to Kyle Hendricks on Opening Day again this season

Of course, Hendricks got the ball on the much-awaited Opening Day against Milwaukee and was absolutely brilliant, tossing a complete game shutout at a fan-less Wrigley Field. This year, it looks like there will be fans at the Friendly Confines, albeit in a diminished capacity – and at the team’s Cactus League games, as well.

Will he get the Opening Day start again in 2021? It sure looks that way. I mean, looking at this rotation, there’s zero chance – barring injury – that any other starter even gets a look for the job. This is Hendricks’ job to lose and rightfully so. Hottovy all but confirmed he’ll make his second consecutive Opening Day start over the weekend, dancing around the question when asked outright.

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"“There will be multiple guys that technically could be ready,” Hottovy said. “Just for Kyle and his workload, that’s what we wanted to do, just to give him some opportunity to get extra off days in as we get into it, but he’s in a good place now and we want him to be ready for that.”"