Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be the team’s opening day starter when they face the Milwaukee Brewers on July 24 at Wrigley Field, manager David Ross announced today.
“He’s the one that’s ready,” Ross said. “It was an easy indication. I’ve had that in my mind for a little while but I just don’t want to jump the gun.”
It will be the first opening day start for Hendricks, who turned 30 last December and is in his seventh season with the club. The past three opening day starts have been made by Jon Lester, but it is Hendricks who gets the nod this season.
“It’s on me now to come through for that,” Hendricks said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, not only this past offseason but during time off (in) quarantine. Changing my routine, workout-wise, so I’m feeling stronger than ever before. And yeah I want to be that guy for my team.”
Hendricks has been as steady as they come in the Cubs rotation since he joined the club in 2014, with a career ERA of 3.14. He 2.13 ERA in 2016 won him the ERA title, eventually finishing third in Cy Young voting to Max Scherzer and Lester. He signed a four-year contract extension with the Cubs last year, a season in which he pitched to a 3.46 ERA across 177 innings.
Hendricks also started Game Seven of the 2016 World Series and has pitched in other big spots for the team as well. Ross points to that pedigree as part of the reason for his decision.
“When talk about everything that Kyle encompasses,” Ross said. “One: His resume. The big games he’s already pitched in and the way he’s carried himself and handled himself in those big games.
“I remember when I first got here, the narrative was he couldn’t get through a lineup three times, which makes me laugh now. Just to see the way that he has grown.”
It seemed to be a two-man competition to get the ball on opening day between Hendricks and Yu Darvish, the latter of whom had a strong second half of the 2019 and threw 229 strikeouts across the season.
If Darvish is indeed the number two in the rotation, that likely makes Lester the third starter. After injuring his hand, José Quintana is set to begin throwing this week and could recover in time to start the fourth game of the season. After a promising spring, Tyler Chatwood appears to be the front-runner for the fifth spot, with potential competition from Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay.
After winning the ERA title, pitching game seven of a World Series, throwing an 81-pitch complete game and accumulating a 2.98 postseason ERA, it was only a matter of time before Hendricks reached this achievement. He’s reached those achievements without a possessing a flamethrower arm or knee-buckling breaking balls, but with finesse and pitch sequencing of his fastball that rarely hits 90 MPH and sinker/changeup combo. He has carved out a career for himself after not getting drafted until the eight round in 2011.
“It was a bigger deal for me to tell him than it was for him to hear the news,” Ross said.
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