GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If you needed an example about why the universal designated hitter should be a no-brainer in Major League Baseball, look no further than Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks first at-bat of the spring.
In his first in-game at-bat in 17 months Wednesday, Hendricks lined a pitch to right field for what appeared to be a routine single. But Padres right fielder Wil Myers, who was playing shallow, came up firing and tried to throw Hendricks out at first base.
As Hendricks crossed the base, he collided with Padres first baseman Jake Cronenworth and went airborne. Hendricks, who wasn’t hurt, didn’t waste any time making fun of himself for a single that was anything but routine.
‘‘We’ve been working on hitting a little bit out here, but we haven’t been on the bases,’’ Hendricks said with a laugh. ‘‘First base must have moved on me or something since the last time I was over there.
‘‘Three steps before the base, it’s either, ‘I’m out or I’m running into him.’ The competitiveness took over. It was like, ‘I’m not getting thrown out from right field.’ ’’
Manager David Ross wasn’t going to waste an opportunity to get in on the fun — but only after he knew his Opening Day starter was OK, of course.
‘‘I think I threw up in my mask for a second,’’ Ross said with a laugh. ‘‘I panicked a little bit, like: ‘Please get up.’ . . . I was like: ‘You realize you could just pull up. It’s OK if you get out.’ He goes: ‘No way I’m coming back to the dugout with getting thrown out from right field. . . . I saw [former Cubs right-hander Trevor] Cahill do that, and he never lived it down.’
‘‘We had a good laugh about that after I knew he was all right. But, yeah, thank goodness he was all right. And it was actually a pretty impressive base hit to right, off a guy throwing really hard and with two strikes. I was impressed on a lot of levels with that [single], but my heart definitely skipped a beat for a minute.’’
Kimbrel has first scoreless inning
Closer Craig Kimbrel hasn’t had the prettiest spring training. But after three consecutive appearances in which he allowed at least one run, he had his first scoreless outing of the spring Wednesday against the Padres.
Kimbrel struck out third baseman Manny Machado to lead off the sixth inning, then got a double play to end the inning. His fastball sat consistently at 96 mph after hovering in the low 90s in his first three appearances.
‘‘I think the things he worked on and identified in his bullpen [session] the time before, I was able to watch that,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I think getting back to some keys and slowing down, making it a deliberate process.
‘‘We talk a lot about just being the guy that I’ve seen in the past. The guy I saw face Manny Machado was the guy that I know. One, two, three fastballs. Here they are, coming right at you. That’s the Craig I know.’’