SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Joe Maddon made the obvious choice and named Jon Lester as the Opening Night starter, the Cubs manager joked about Kyle Hendricks reacting to the news by throwing stuff around the weight room.
So imagine how last year's ERA titleholder and a World Series Game 7 starter responded to the idea of being slotted fifth in the rotation.
"I heard things rattling in there," Maddon said with a laugh.
The Cubs revealed their alignment before Wednesday afternoon's Jake Arrieta vs. Zack Greinke matchup at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, confirming Brett Anderson will work as a starter (for as long as he's healthy) while Mike Montgomery moves to the bullpen for the defending champs.
The Cubs want John Lackey to face the St. Louis Cardinals, so he will open as the No. 3 starter at Busch Stadium. To break up the lefties in the rotation, Anderson — who once tweeted: "Kyle Hendricks looks like he'd celebrate a World Series win with a glass of 2% milk, Oreos and a book" — will start Game 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
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Whether or not the Cubs are overthinking this and overplaying their hand with a mild-mannered personality, don't expect Hendricks to rage against the pitching infrastructure.
"That's the point about our group," Maddon said. "Everybody buys in. Everybody's good. They understand being a part of the puzzle in your own unique way.
"It's kind of neat when you can have these conversations, knowing that ego's not going to play a part of it from the player coming back at you. They know it is part of the overall picture. They also know that the purpose is to try to do what we did last year.
"It's a unique situation. I'm not saying we're taking advantage of it, because everybody kind of digs it."
Whether or not Hendricks repeats his 2.13 ERA and third-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award vote, the Cubs see 200 innings as his next level after throwing 180 in 2015 and 190 last season (plus seven playoff starts combined).
"Everybody gets hung up on numbers," Maddon said. "He's definitely better than a No. 5 starter. It just happens that we're going to slot him in the five-hole coming out of camp. It's not a pecking order regarding ability by any means.
"A lot of it is just comfort zone for us with Kyle doing so well there last year. But, listen, Kyle can be a lot of people's No. 2s or even a 1 in a situation right now, too."
All along, the Cubs have coached up and managed Hendricks to the point where he could beat Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the franchise's first pennant in 71 years.
"Why mess with that?" Maddon said. "As long as his ego doesn't force you to attempt to try to do something differently, and it doesn't, outside of throwing things a little bit. He's beautiful. We're all good."
The Cubs keep raking in the accolades.
Theo Epstein is the latest to be honored, with Fortune naming the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on the newly-released list of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.
Epstein — the architect of the Cubs team that ended a 108-year championship drought — beat out such names as Pope Francis, John McCain, LeBron James and Joe Biden.
Fellow Chicagoan and White Sox ambassador Chance the Rapper also made the list at No. 46.
The rationale for Epstein includes:
In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.
For more on why Epstein and the Cubs topped the list, head to Fortune.com.
Epstein had a classic reaction to the honor with his official statement:
"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball - a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."