Kyle Hendricks hasn’t been dominant this spring by any stretch, and I’m talking about relative to his typical performances that don’t resemble those of a typical ace. He gave up two runs on four hits in 3.1 innings of work Wednesday evening, bringing his Cactus League ERA to 6.48 over three starts. Not exactly top-of-the-rotation numbers if you just scout the box score.
Of course, that same box score will tell you he’s struck out 11 over 8.1 innings (11.88 K/9) while walking only two (2.16 BB/9), so he’s obviously doing something right. For a finesse pitcher like Hendricks, spring training is a time to work on little tweaks and get his timing down. He’s not out there looking to throw complete game shutouts like the one he twirled against the Brewers to open the 2020 season.
Heck, he’s not focused on being the Opening Day starter even though everyone knows that’s exactly what he’ll be come April 1.
“It’s a nice nod, but I think it’s something after your career you may look at,” Hendricks told reporters following his third spring start.
That’s exactly the kind of response you’d expect from a guy whose only encounter with public displays of emotion comes in the form of his walk-out music. He’s been caught laughing and smiling at camp, though, so perhaps this older version of Hendricks is becoming less stuffy and professorial with age. In reality, it’s just a matter of him maintaining a smooth and steady approach that typically belies little of what’s going on inside.
So even though he knows very well who’s leading this Cubs staff now, he’s perfectly content to let things play out as David Ross sees fit.
“I think I’m ready to go for the start of the season,” Hendricks said. “That’s on Rossy. I’m pretty sure he’ll let you know what the news is on that.”
The early results may not agree that he’s ready, but that’s like saying his velo readings tell you he should be buried deep on the depth chart. With one or two starts left, all he’s got to do is ramp up his pitch count just a bit. When you consider his relatively low-stress approach, both mentally and physically, he may be more well equipped than most of his colleagues to hit the ground running.
And with the lowly Pirates coming to town for the opener, we may just get to see yet another gem to start 2021.