LOS ANGELES – Two years ago, Ryan Dempster ended the no-trade saga and the Cubs made a buzzer-beater deal with the Texas Rangers.
Fast forward to Friday night at Dodger Stadium, where Kyle Hendricks beat L.A. in front of 47,900, showing how The Plan is coming into focus. Hendricks probably didn’t envision this with Class-A Myrtle Beach on July 31, 2012.
“Not exactly,” Hendricks said after an 8-2 victory over the Dodgers. “You always have lofty dreams, but I would say I was more concerned with the day-to-day work to get me here.”
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Hendricks is showing that he belongs here, giving up only four hits to a dangerous lineup and allowing two runs, one earned, in seven innings. The Cubs (46-62) didn’t have a letdown the day after the non-waiver trade deadline, blitzing almost-Cub Dan Haren (seven runs) and beating the National League’s best team.
Hendricks (2-1, 2.05 ERA) has gone at least six innings in each of his four starts, and the only one the Cubs lost was a 1-0 rivalry game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Before getting the promotion last month, Hendricks had talked with Triple-A Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton about handling the moment.
“You really can’t get rattled,” Hendricks said. “There’s this big, big game, all the fans and all the hype and all that. You got to just eliminate it all and play the same game, pounding the strike zone and making good pitches. There’s definitely more (emotions), but you can eliminate a lot of it.”
Hendricks has thrown 129 innings between Iowa and The Show, but said he hasn’t heard anything yet about his limits this season. He accounted for 166-plus innings when he emerged as the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2013.
“He seems to have a real good feel of what he wants to do,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s very prepared, and there’s some great calmness to him.”
Hendricks doesn’t throw 100 mph, but he knows how to slow the game down and attack hitters. He grew up in Southern California, graduating from Capistrano Valley High School before going to Dartmouth College. He got 30 or 40 tickets for friends and family and had no idea how many others found their own.
The last time Hendricks played at Dodger Stadium was a showcase event heading into his senior year of high school. He thought he pitched an inning and played some outfield that day.
“It was a little different,” Hendricks said. “There were maybe 200 people in the stands for that.”