Why the Cubs aren’t concerned about Kyle Hendricks’ future
It would have been reasonable to have tempered expectations for Kyle Hendricks’ start on Tuesday.
After all, the conditions weren’t tailor-made for a return — the thermostat read 94-degrees at first pitch, Hendricks was facing a potent Padres lineup and it was his first time pitching in a game since June 1.
But manager David Ross and Hendricks himself set the bar high for him, regardless of the situation. And that sentiment was buoyed by a strong bullpen session last Friday.
“Felt like his last bullpen went really well,” Ross said prior to Tuesday’s start against the Padres. “It’s a hot day, I’ll play it and watch it and see how it is, but gonna treat it like a normal start for him.”
By Hendricks standards, Tuesday’s outing was pretty close to normal. The righty threw 5+ innings, striking out 6, walking none and allowing 1 earned run on 4 hits. The Cubs fell to the Padres 12-5.
“Overall, I felt, health-wise great and stamina-wise real good there for a while,” Hendricks said after the outing. “My stuff and my mechanics felt really good so gotta back in the routine and get that pitch count back up.”
The last two years haven’t been what Cubs fans have come to expect from Hendricks — entering Tuesday’s game he had a 4.88 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP over 43 starts the last two seasons — but Ross isn’t worried that this is who Hendricks is now.
“I think the thing with Kyle is if you dive deep into his numbers and stuff, like he’s the same guy against right-handed batters as he’s always been,” Ross said.
Hendricks found success against the Padres using his changeup. Of his 78 pitches, Hendricks threw 31 changeups and had 9 swings-and-misses on the pitch. It kept the Padres’ hitters at bay.
“I knew after the first inning or two, I noticed I had good action on it and I saw the swings I was getting off it,” Hendricks said. “But again, I was establishing my fastball a little bit at the beginning or enough to have it work right off that.”
The struggles for Hendricks have come against left-handed hitters. Lefties have a .902 OPS the last two seasons against him. In his career, left-handed hitters have an OPS of .718.
“I think we have some thoughts on that as a group and how to just get back to that, but his numbers, how the pitches are shaped and the spin and the velocity it’s all really similar,” Ross added.
Some of those efforts against lefties seemed to bear fruit for Hendricks. The Padres left-handed hitters were 2-for-10 with 3 strikeouts against Hendricks.
“I want him to continue to do that and let the other teams figure out what the difference is,” Ross said after the game. “I thought he got back to a lot of the ways that he’s had success this year.”
Both hits came from Jake Cronenworth, who singled in the 1st and doubled in the 6th, Hendricks’ last hitter he faced.
“I left that pitch up, maybe that was the one bad pitch for me over the plate,” Hendricks said of the last hit.
The outing is one that Hendricks and the Cubs hope he can build off.
“I really gotta establish that consistency, like I’ve been saying, start-to-start so the team can know what to expect every time I take the ball,” Hendricks said. “It’s a huge pride aspect for me, so yeah this a good one to start, but gotta keep going and got a lot more to go, for sure.”