It's way too soon for the Cubs to push the panic button with Kyle Hendricks

The veteran right-hander has been hit hard in his first two starts of the 2024 campaign.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

If you didn't watch Kyle Hendricks' latest outing and evaluated his second start of the season simply by looking at his line, you'd come away feeling pretty disheartened with the longtime Chicago Cubs rotation staple.

Four innings pitched, eight hits - including a home run - allowed for five earned runs, with a pair of walks and four punchouts. His ERA on the year now sits at an unsightly 11.74, but the Cubs aren't panicking.

“We couldn’t get out of the first inning. The third time through this lineup got him," Cubs manager Craig Counsell told reporters after the game. "That’s probably something that’s going to happen a lot to a lot of pitchers, unfortunately. It’s something you try to be cautious of, but we had a pretty good lead at that point and it kind of made sense.”

Right out of the gate, Hendricks caught a bad break when two-time Gold Glove left fielder Ian Happ lost a fly ball in the sun, allowing two runs to cross the plate. That put the Cubs in an early hole, but the bats ground out quality ABs to chase Los Angeles phenom Bobby Miller before he could even get through the second inning.

Hendricks leaned on his four-seam fastball way more against the Dodgers than he did in his first start against the Rangers in Arlington last week, and also shifted to a heavier usage of his change-up which, when on, is near unhittable.

In his career, Hendricks has always struggled in the first month, with an ERA of 5.17 in 35 March and April starts. It seems to take him some time to really find the feel for his full arsenal, and you see his strikeout-to-walk ratio level out pretty quickly come May.

There's no reason to lose faith in Hendricks after two starts, especially given his past trends - and the fact he squared off against two of the best offensive teams in the league. Now, if we're in June or July and still having this conversation, it'll be a different story but, for now, expect the Cubs and Hendricks to stay the course.