If you looked at the Chicago Cubs’ current roster and I told you that a 26-year-old with only one year of service time was going to make the starting rotation against a squad with such massive starting options, you might think I’m daft. But the truth is Kyle Hendricks is earning his spot and he’s not giving it up.
Hendricks, 26, has a good start to his Spring, having tossed in two games for a total of five innings and only giving up four hits, one run, and fanning six. Massive stats? Obviously not. Spring training has just begun and it’s a small sample size but seeing him work out (off the field) and how he’s approaching every batter shows considerably more skill and preparation this season than he showed in the past two.
Although I mention improvements I really can’t say that the past two seasons haven’t been bad. In 45 starts Hendricks owns a 15-9 record with a 3.49 ERA. He’s racked up 214 strike outs compared to 58 walks (nearly a 4:1 ratio) and averages 7.4 strike outs per nine innings.
Yes a lot of pitchers would love the numbers from their first two years to be in the same ballpark as Hendricks’, but there’s always room for improvement especially when you’re competing for a starting spot with players the likes of Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Adam Warren, and Justin Grimm. These obviously aren’t household names like Jake Arrieta, but they’ve still shown over time that, given the opportunity, they can be very capable starters.
As far as Hendricks’ work is concerned, he’s been shoring up his regular changeup (used against lefties) to compliment his cut change-up (used against righties). He’s continuing to work on his body mechanics and improving his throwing style as he began tweaking in 2015 with pitching coach Chris Bosio.
No matter how you look at Hendricks’ “stuff”, his progress leads me to believe he’ll win out a number five-spot, if not a four in the Cubs’ rotation. Perhaps the most important ingredient to his success is his growth in maturity. There’s still plenty of work to do for Kyle Hendricks but the rotation spot in question is his to lose, and no one should see that happening anytime soon.