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More ‘athletic’ Kyle Hendricks looks to reclaim 2016 form for Cubs

“He looks phenomenal. He looks strong. And he looks sharp already,” manager David Ross said of the Cubs’ most consistent performer in the rotation the last six years.

Kyle Hendricks throws a spring bullpen session under the watchful eyes of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy (left) and former Cubs ace Rick Sutcliffe.
John Antonoff photo

MESA, Ariz. — After a full day of meetings and workouts for pitchers and catchers Thursday, new manager David Ross finally got a chance to head to the Cubs’ gym for his workout. It was almost 4 — late in the day for the first week of spring training.

‘‘And Kyle was heading to the cage with a bat,’’ Ross said of right-hander Kyle Hendricks. ‘‘I was like, ‘That’s what I’m talking about.’ ’’

Hendricks, the major-league ERA champ in 2016, probably wasn’t sucking up to Ross.

‘‘I changed a few things, for sure,’’ Hendricks said of his offseason program in the wake of a season that disappointed him personally and from a team perspective. ‘‘I didn’t like the trend I was going the last two years or so.’’

It wasn’t as though Hendricks had a bad season in 2019. Even with a midseason stretch on the injured list because of a shoulder issue, he produced a 3.46 ERA and made 30 starts.

But he said he thought his mechanics were getting, well, ‘‘very mechanical, I guess.’’ Not as fluid and ‘‘athletic’’ as he’d like.

‘‘And also I was just kind of fatiguing more than I would like to at the end of the season, especially with my lower half,’’ he said.

So he changed trainers, altered his workouts and started his offseason throwing program earlier.

‘‘I feel really strong shoulder-wise,’’ he said. ‘‘My lower half feels a lot better. And I just feel more athletic overall, and my mechanics kind of show it.’’

It’s not hard to imagine the kind of effect it might have on a team that added little during the winter and is seeking improvement internally from a group that underperformed.

Hendricks’ best season (16-8, 2.13 ERA) also was the Cubs’ best during his six years with them. Replicating that 2016 performance, not surprisingly, is his goal this season.

‘‘He’s one of the guys you’ve got to worry about the least,’’ said Ross, who caught Hendricks in 2015 and 2016. ‘‘You know what you’re going to get out of him, and he sets one of the best tones [for teammates].

‘‘He looks phenomenal. He looks strong. And he looks sharp already.’’

Hendricks said he plans to keep his well-publicized yoga work as part of his routine, even though the Cubs parted ways with instructor Christine Schwan as part of a long list of organizational changes.

But he wasn’t satisfied with his performance — or with the team’s — last season.

‘‘You learn a lot going through adversities, and we’ve had a lot of that,’’ he said. ‘‘The last couple of years have definitely been tough, especially coming down to the end. We know what we need to do.

‘‘I think we’ve learned a lot from that, having a couple of different people in charge here. Things are changing, and I think that’s good. You need to change the way you’re doing things if you want the result to change.’’