NEW YORK – Kyle Hendricks doesn’t have the Major League Baseball logo tattooed onto the back of his neck, but he acts likes he belongs in The Show.
Javier Baez doesn’t have an economics degree from Dartmouth College, but he’s a serious student of the game, a baseball rat who loves the subject matter.
It’s an odd couple on the surface, but Hendricks and Baez haven’t shown any nerves since coming up from Triple-A Iowa. That’s part of the reason why the Cubs believe they can be core players for years to come.
With Monday’s 4-1 victory over the New York Mets, Hendricks (5-1, 1.66 ERA) became the franchise’s first rookie to put together six consecutive quality starts since Kerry Wood in 1998.
“That’s good company right there,” said Hendricks, who scattered three hits and gave up one run in seven innings. “That’s an honor.”
Baez created the highlight-reel clip in the ninth inning, crushing a two-run homer 434 feet out to left and into Citi’s Field second deck.
“That’s typical right there,” Hendricks said. “Not really shocking for us. He can do that any time he’s up.”
Combine that with Anthony Rizzo, who blasted his 28th homer, a go-ahead shot in the eighth inning, and you get an idea of the offensive attack the Cubs (54-70) envision. But Baez isn’t digging himself, saying he didn’t have a good game after going 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, giving him 24 in his first 14 games. That’s the trade-off for his five bombs.
“Pretty comfortable,” Baez said. “For me, it’s the same game with more fans and bigger (stadiums). They still got to throw the ball over the plate. They just know how to pitch to you.”
Who knows what the ceiling will be, but Hendricks definitely knows how to pitch. When asked who reminds you of Hendricks, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he wouldn’t go there and then mentioned a Hall of Famer.
“I reserve the right to (not) pigeonhole him or compare him to anybody,” Renteria said. “I think he’s establishing himself. I know it’s a short snippet, but he’s been very, very good. He is Maddux-like, a little bit, in his execution, his approach.”
Hendricks – who’s posted a 0.97 WHIP through almost 50 innings – has never looked rattled or in awe of his surroundings.
“In the very beginning, maybe, there was some of those moments,” Hendricks said. “Now I’m kind of settling in.”