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After years of comparisons, Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies hope to thrive together in Cubs’ rotation

Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies have been compared to each other for years; now they’ll get the chance to pitch on the same staff.

John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — One of the early storylines from spring training has been some of the similarities in the Cubs’ rotation, and no two pitchers get compared more to each other than Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies.

It has happened for years, especially when Davies was in the National League Central with the Brewers. With their repertoires, easy mechanics and reliance on command over velocity, it’s easy to see why they’re viewed as baseball doppelgangers.

“It’s funny because they put our lockers right next to each other,” Davies said. “So I think they know the comparisons, too.”

After years of watching each other from afar, these right-handers are looking to have success together and do it in a way that’s increasingly against the grain.

“We may be at the very bottom of the league in terms of velocity,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said. “But in terms of pitchability, we’ll be right at the top. And I think that’s something our guys have done an exceptional job with.”

In an era of increasing pitch velocity, exit velocity and data, the success of Davies and Hendricks still comes as a surprise to some, but the numbers speak for themselves. Hendricks (3.14) and Davies (3.79) rank fifth and seventh in ERA since 2015. They’re also fifth and 20th, respectively, in ERA+ over the same span.

“[Davies and Trevor Williams] are two guys I’m really excited to get to know more and just pitch alongside,” Hendricks said. “I’ve gotten to hang out with them in the clubhouse here for a little bit already. . . . It’s gonna be really fun just to toe the rubber and go to war with those guys and just learn from each other. Every guy you come across, you learn something from them or they learn something from you. It’s just good collaboration, you know? So just talking, pitching.”

“There are similarities [between me and Kyle]; there are differences in my eyes and his eyes, too,” Davies said. “[There are] finer differences that not everybody catches, but at the same time, as pitchers who’ve been in the game for a little while, you know those differences, and you know how that changes your game plan compared to his. . . . But I think both of our games are similar in the fact that it’s reading swings, it’s reading hitters and how our skill set and our stuff plays within the game against those guys. So it’s always fun for me, I love information. I love talking about baseball. So I enjoy every moment of those conversations.”

Whether Hendricks and Davies go back-to-back in the rotation or are split up by Williams, Jake Arrieta, Alec Mills or even Adbert Alzolay, being able to differentiate their game plans will be an essential part of their success together. Catcher Willson Contreras already has been working on ways to ensure his starters are changing things up, especially in series in which they pitch against the same lineup.

“I think all those arms are good for us,” Contreras said. “They can pitch to a scouting report. That’s the most important thing. They’re all like each other. I mean, they’re like Kyle Hendricks. They’re gonna be able to pitch to the scouting report. That’s something I’m not worried about. I’m just looking forward to keep working with these guys and get the best out of them.”