Cubs need Kyle Hendricks to rebound from rough debut and avoid a slow start

The Chicago veteran was ineffective on Saturday night and left the Cubs looking to avoid a sweep in Sunday's series finale against the reigning World Series champs.

Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Kyle Hendricks didn't have his best stuff on Saturday night - and it showed. A deep Texas Rangers offense roughed him up for five earned on nine hits, including two home runs, in just 3 2/3 innings as the Cubs fell to 0-2 on the young season.

“Kyle’s outings all depend on execution, and he probably was just a little short on his execution tonight, and they made him pay with some hard-hit balls and then they got some balls that found some holes,” manager Craig Counsell told reporters after the game. “But Kyle’s got to execute at a high level, and I thought tonight he probably didn’t execute at a high level.”

Cubs have a notoriously slow starter on their hands in Kyle Hendricks

Hendricks threw 72 pitches on the night, but just 30 of them found the zone - a huge red flag for a guy who lives and dies based on his ability to hit his spots. The 10-year veteran managed just two swinging strikes on the night and primarily road his sinker and change-up, only turning to his curveball twice.

Before you go writing him off as washed up, remember: it's the first start of the season and Hendricks is a noted slow starter. In 34 career March and April starts, he carries an ERA north of 5.00 and an opponent OPS of .805. In every other month, he's got a sub-4.00 ERA and opponents' OPS barely breaks .700 in two.

“Not ideal — a couple wrong selections, too, I’m just not feeling it quite yet,” Hendricks said. “A couple easy fixes hopefully, but I’ve got to get back to work and iron some things out.”

The problem with Hendricks needing some time to find the feel he needs is the Cubs are already down the most important member of their pitching staff in Justin Steele, who suffered a hamstring injury on Opening Night and is expected to miss all of April. Veteran Jameson Taillon is still weeks away from joining the big league club as he rehabs from an injury, leaving Counsell short-handed right out of the gate.

Hopefully, Hendricks can shake off the rust next week at Wrigley and help keep the ship afloat while the team battles through a couple of key early season injuries.