It’s Show Time for Dartmouth’s Hendricks
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Cincinnati. Hendricks was making his major league debut. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Chicago Cubs' Kyle Hendricks lays down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Cincinnati. Hendricks was making his major league debut. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Cincinnati — Dallas Beeler set the bar high for Chicago Cubs pitchers making their major league debuts this season — and not just on the mound.
Beeler not only allowed just four hits and an unearned run in six innings during his premier performance for Chicago on June 28, he also logged a hit.
“He got a hit on the first pitch he saw in his debut, so I’ve got a little bit to live up to,” Kyle Hendricks recalled on Wednesday. “I don’t know how that’s going to turn out.”
The Dartmouth College product could’ve been talking about any aspect of his own debut, which he made Thursday afternoon in the finale of the Cubs’ five-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Before at least 15 family members and friends, the 24-year-old Hendricks put some first-inning jitters and control problems behind him to reach the goal every pitcher takes into every start — he kept his team in the game.
Hendricks opened the game with seven straight balls on his way to walking the first two batters. He ended up giving up three first-inning runs to a team riding a five-game winning streak, but he went on to pitch five more innings while giving up just two more hits — including a solo home run by Ryan Ludwick in the third inning — and hitting a batter.
The Cubs won the game, 6-4, in 12 innings.
“I was a little nervous,” he admitted after the game. “My sinker was moving so much. I was just trying to feel it. A lot of the pitches were close.”
Cubs manager Rick Renteria was pleased by the rookie’s effort, though not enough to keep him in the majors. Since the Cubs wouldn’t need a starter for a while, they were expected to option Hendricks back to Triple-A Iowa.
“He kept us in the game,” Renteria said. “He did a nice job.”
Renteria was most impressed by Hendricks’ approach to Cincinnati slugger Jay Bruce, who pinch-hit with runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth inning and struck out swinging.
“He showed his confidence,” Renteria said of Hendricks. “He had a game plan. We went out and talked to him, and he said, ‘I can get this guy.’ ”
“I wish I could have the first inning back, but I’ll remember the next five,” Hendricks said. “I’ll take what I did and move on from there.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Hendricks became the third starting pitcher to make his major league debut with the Cubs in less than two weeks and the second in a span of three games. He was recalled after going 10-5 with a 3.59 earned-run average and 97 strikeouts in 102.2 innings for the Iowa Cubs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Hendricks spent the first part of this season increasing his repertoire, he said, focusing on polishing his four-seam fastball.
“I usually throw two-seam, but down there I’ve been really focusing on using my four-seam, just throwing with more velocity to guys,” he said. “It really keeps them off-balance when you can throw it to both sides of the plate. It’s been a real key for me, and I’m going to stick with it.”
He admitted that focusing on his immediate task was difficult with Iowa, especially after Chicago’s trade of Jeff Samardzija to Oakland on July 5 opened up a spot in the Cubs’ rotation.
“I don’t know if impatience is the word,” Hendricks said. “It’s hard not to think about it, that’s for sure, but you’ve got to put it out of your mind as much as you can. If you’re thinking about it all the time, you’re not going to focus on the task at hand. Bottom line, you’ve got to go out there every fifth day, even at Triple-A, and do what you have to do and it will all take care of itself.”
That’s the same approach he was taking when it came to what might happen in the wake of his outing.
“I’m not really thinking about it, to be honest with you,” he said. “I hope they give me a real opportunity. That’s all you want. All I can focus on is going out there, pounding the strike zone, using all my pitches — just doing the best I can.”
Mark Schmetzer is a Cincinnati freelance sportswriter.