LOS ANGELES — Rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks is pitching so well that he might actually knock himself out of the rotation by the time the Cubs’ front office decides it wants to see newly acquired Felix Doubront or Dan Straily down the stretch.
Seven strong innings Friday night from the kid who debuted three weeks ago not only paced the Cubs to an unlikely 8-2 victory over the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. It also ran Hendricks’ innings count to 129 between Class AAA Iowa and the big leagues.
Hendricks (2-1, 2.05 ERA in four big-league starts) is showing no signs of wear, tear or fatigue, even after getting drilled in the calf by the first batter of the game.
But he never has pitched past a five-month minor-league season, with career highs of 166 1/3 innings and 27 starts last year.
And the longer he keeps pitching like someone who deserves a shot at a long-term role, the more careful the Cubs figure to be with him.
Five more scheduled starts in August would match his career high and put him close to his innings high — and likely put him on the sideline for the rest of the season.
“I’m sure if that’s a topic of conversation, we’ll have it in the near future,” manager Rick Renteria said.
Said the 24-year-old Hendricks: “I don’t worry about that stuff. I work out hard in the offseason to get myself ready for that. I like to throw a lot of innings. Usually as the season goes, I get stronger and stronger and kind of fall into a rhythm. I feel the best I’ve felt all year right now.”
For now, the guy the Cubs “settled” for at the 2012 trade deadline after Ryan Dempster refused to be traded to the Braves is 12-6 with a 3.28 ERA combined at Class AAA and the majors.
Since allowing three runs in his first inning in the big leagues July 10, Hendricks has allowed three earned runs in 25 1/3 innings in three-plus starts.
“I’m definitely getting more comfortable every day,” Hendricks said, “but that comes from the guys in the locker room. They’ve all been awesome to me. They’re great teammates so far and helping me acclimate with everything.
On Friday, the poised Dartmouth grad kept his cool — and the Dodgers in check — despite sloppy play behind him much of the night.
“He was very composed again,” Renteria said. “Seems to have a very good feel for what he wants to do. He’s very prepared. He continues to impress.”
Hendricks gave up four hits, all singles, and only two that left the infield. The only walk he allowed was intentional.
The only earned run he allowed was scored almost exclusively as a function of Dee Gordon’s league-best speed.
Gordon reached on a drive that caromed off Hendricks’ calf and dribbled toward shortstop Starlin Castro leading off the first. Then he stole second easily and one out later stole third.
After Adrian Gonzalez was walked intentionally, Gordon scored on Hanley Ramirez’s grounder to short that Castro threw into right field (though it likely wouldn’t have produced a double play anyway).
Hendricks, the Cubs’ 2013 minor-league pitcher of the year in his first full season in the organization, was acquired from the Rangers a few days after Dempster refused a trade that would have netted the Cubs prospect Randall Delgado (1-2, 4.77 ERA in 32 appearances for the Diamondbacks this year).
NOTES: The Dodgers lost two All-Stars during the game, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez exiting after the second inning because of a bruised knee (suffered on a first-inning slide) and center fielder Yasiel Puig leaving in the sixth because of a mildly sore left hamstring.