Kyle Hendricks earning his place in Cubs rotation

Kyle Hendricks earning his place in Cubs rotation
July 27, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Maybe Kyle Hendricks is the answer.

It's no secret the Cubs have been hurting for quality starting pitching since trading away 40 percent of the rotation in early July when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A's.

Edwin Jackson has taken another step back this year after leading the league in losses in 2013 and Travis Wood hasn't lived up to the All-Star campaign he put together last year.

Beyond Jake Arrieta, the Cubs need somebody else to step up in the rotation and Hendricks is doing just that.

The 24-year-old rookie picked up his second straight quality start Sunday, holding the St. Louis Cardinals to one run on seven hits in 6.1 innings. The only blemish was a wind-aided homer from Matt Holliday in the first inning that landed in the basket in center field.

Manager Rick Renteria said that Hendricks has had success on the mound because his preparation has him ready ahead of his starts.

"He's very prepared, and I think that for him it's like going to school. When you're prepared and you've got to take a test and you're prepared it's a little easier," Renteria said after the game. "It seems like he has a good hold on how he's supposed to go about his business, and you can see it because he's very calm."

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Hendricks was a key part of the Ryan Dempster trade with the Texas Rangers at the 2012 trading deadline. He was named the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year in 2013 after putting up a 13-4 record with a 2.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 27 starts.

After finishing his degree at Dartmouth in the offseason, Hendricks took another step forward at Triple-A Iowa this year, emerging as a viable option for the big-league rotation following the Oakland trade.

Hendricks struggled in his debut, allowing four runs on three walks and five hits to the Reds on July 10, but tossed seven shutout innings his second time out 12 days later. After Sunday's performance, his ERA sits at 2.33 with a 1.19 WHIP.

"On the mound the biggest thing is making in-game adjustments," he said after the game. "I think that's what separates a lot of good pitchers from being average, just figuring out what hitters are trying to do against you during the game and making adjustments to combat that."

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Hendricks doesn't have overpowering stuff, but relies on command and his intelligence to get hitters out. But his maturity and composure has been a huge key to the success he's had early in his career.

"He brings a little bit of balance," Renteria said. "I'm not too concerned about him overthinking things. He's been able to slow things down a little bit. That is something you worry about with young players.

"But I think he kind of takes a breath, takes a step back, sees what he has to do and attacks it the way he has to. It doesn't always work out, but I think he goes into it with a pretty calm demeanor and a real good idea of how he wants to go about his business. And I think that's just preparation, which is what gives him confidence."