Cubs name Kyle Hendricks Opening Day starter for third straight year
It was never really much of a question, but now, the official announcement has been made and, for the third consecutive year, right-hander Kyle Hendricks will get the ball for the Cubs on Opening Day.
With a forecast with rain and temperatures in the 40s on-deck for Thursday’s festivities at Wrigley Field, it won’t be an altogether pleasant day to be on the rubber, but that’s early season baseball in the Midwest. Despite that fact, third-year manager David Ross said he knows Hendricks will be ready for the assignment.
"“Reliability, consistency,” Ross told MLB.com. “The things that make up Major League players that have played this game for a long time, Kyle has a lot of those attributes. I know he’s going to be prepared. I know he’s going to be ready. And I know he’s going to handle the moment as best as he possibly can, or as anybody could.”"
Last season was the bumpiest of Hendricks’ career. For the first time in his eight-year run in the big leagues, he finished with an ERA north of 4.00 (4.77). It was an uncharacteristically streaky run for the right-hander, who stumbled out of the gates, settled in and then got off-track again down the stretch.
He hasn’t been great this spring, either, but has chalked that up to focusing on very specific parts of his game rather than the big picture as he looks to rebound from 2021. For this staff to have any shot at improving on last year’s disastrous showing, Hendricks will have to be a steadying presence. Behind him and Marcus Stroman, there’s potential, yes, but a lot of uncertainty, as well.
Cubs hoping Kyle Hendricks can overcome his early-season struggles
March and April have, far and away, always been the worst months for Hendricks. He carries a 4.78 career ERA in 28 starts, and home runs have come far more frequently against him early in the year – something he’s aware of and looking to improve upon after allowing a career-high 31 last year.
Really, the only other option to get the nod on Thursday against Milwaukee would have been Stroman, who already put that question to bed weeks ago when he emphatically backed Hendricks for the honor.
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"“Hendricks is the man. Hendricks is the guy,” Stroman said. “I truly believe Hendricks should [start] Opening Day, just because of his career, how unbelievable he’s been in the playoffs. His resume speaks for itself. He’s the guy who should be handed the ball each and every Opening Day as long as he’s here.”"