Kyle Hendricks will once again start the Cubs’ journey in 2021
MESA, Ariz. — “I know what Kyle Hendricks brings to the table.”
That’s what David Ross said of his ace as he explained why Hendricks was throwing a bullpen Monday instead of starting the Cactus League game against the Angels.
Well, what Hendricks is bringing to the table is a second straight Opening Day start for this club, but that shouldn’t take anybody by surprise.
Ross made the announcement Tuesday morning, just over a week before the Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field to kick off the 2021 regular season.
Hendricks, 31, threw a complete game shutout on Opening Day last season, blanking the Brewers and setting the tone for a Cubs team that went on to win the NL Central.
“It worked out pretty good last year,” Ross said, laughing.
He also started Game 1 of the playoff series against the Marlins and with Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish traded away this winter, Hendricks was the clear-cut favorite to take the ball on April 1 this season.
Hendricks went 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 0.996 WHIP last season while finishing 9th in Cy Young voting. He has a career 3.12 ERA in 7 years with the Cubs and has not posted an ERA over 3.46 since 2015.
Despite that success, he is still somehow underrated throughout baseball.
The Cubs certainly know what they have in Hendricks.
Trevor Williams said Hendricks throwing a front door sinker is “objectively sexy” and Ross called Hendricks the leader of the Cubs pitching staff.
The veteran right-hander has always been able to manage his emotions on the mound and ensure the moment does not get too big for him. After all, this is the same guy who started Game 7 of the World Series.
“His resume, his leadership, his poise, all that goes into being the Opening Day starter, just the extra kind of pomp and circumstance that goes with Opening Day especially on this coming year as well — every arrow points to Kyle,” Ross said.
In classic Hendricks fashion, he was asked about the potential Opening Day start all spring and diverted any personal credit to a team-oriented approach.
“Same mindset as last year: When the career’s over and you look back on it, it’s probably something that’ll be cool to look at, but at the end of the day, it really is whoever gets the ball that first game,” Hendricks said last week. “We’re excited just to go take the field with the guys and be playing to win. That’s the bottom line.
“We really don’t care who it is. It just marks the start. OK, here we go, starting the journey. Our focus is always on where we want to end. So it’s a nice nod, but I think it’s something after your career you may look at.”