Kyle Hendricks closes out 2021 season on a strong note in win
Kyle Hendricks looked straight into the camera and was blunt.
“Clearly disappointing, overall,” the Cubs’ ace said when he was asked to assess his 2021 season. “There was a good stretch there for a minute, but everything from the start wasn’t up to par for me.”
While it was a tough campaign for Hendricks, the season ended on a positive note for the righty. He showed moxie in bouncing back, pitching 5-plus strong innings of 2-run ball, allowing just 5 hits, and striking out 5 in the Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Pirates.
“I would like to say very impressed, but his expectations are through the roof for me,” Ross said. “As impressive as it is to watch on every five days, I think I’ve maybe [become] a little spoiled coming to expect it a little bit.”
Hendricks’ resurgence against the Pirates stemmed from his aggressiveness on the mound. He threw first pitch strikes to 14 of the 21 hitters he faced. He attacked with his sinker, throwing it 47 times with 34 of them for strikes and kept his fastball low where he couldn’t get hurt.
“I kinda built off the last one and this one here was able to get my fastball down in the zone again,” Hendricks said. “A lot of balls on the ground and good pitch count and not a lot of deep counts there. I accomplished the few things that I set out trying to do to take into the offseason.”
It’s a better showing than his previous two outings where he allowed 3 earned runs to the Twins in a loss and 7 to the Phillies in 3.2 innings of work in a loss.
“I think I feel a lot better about it with my last two,” Hendricks said. “Glad to go into the offseason with a couple of positives for sure.”
It was a tough second half for Hendricks. Since the trade deadline, Hendricks went 2-3 and posted a 6.67 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. Those numbers are well above his career averages of 3.36 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. That’s why the righty is excited to close out the year with a strong outing.
“I’m just excited to disconnect for a little bit, get away, but then get back after it again in the offseason,” Hendricks said. “I’m glad that there were some positives there and overall, it was just really fun being a part of this team.”
Part of that enjoyment stems from watching some of the rookies or inexperienced players having their opportunities and running with them in the second half.
“Seeing these guys come up and get these opportunities and guys like Frank [Schwindel] and [Rafael Ortega], like i’ve said before [Patrick Wisdom], some of the young pitchers, what they’ve been able to do,” Hendricks said. “I’ve just really enjoyed watching them.”
And the memories and foundation he built with the core of players that were traded at the deadline remain.
“We still have the winning culture that we’ve set in stone here and that’s all we’re trying to continue to have,” Hendricks said.
For him, that means getting ready for 2022 and using his strong final start to return to the pitcher that the Cubs have come to expect.
“I just gotta get myself ready again and be the guy that this team needs me to be next year,” Hendricks said.