Kyle Hendricks feeling ‘much more like myself’ in Cubs’ 2-1 win vs. Rays

Before the game Tuesday, the Cubs recalled Hayden Wesneski and optioned reliever Michael Rucker.

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Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in five innings on Tuesday.

Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in five innings on Tuesday.

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Right-hander Kyle Hendricks has never had the stuff to blow away hitters. Even in his rookie season, when he was throwing the hardest in his career, Hendricks’ four-seamer averaged 91.2 mph.

“He gets a lot of outs; he’s done it for a long time,” rookie Hayden Wesneski said. “So I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got to do to get to his spot.”

Hendricks’ most important weapons have been command and execution, which Wesneski was focused on sharpening when he was in Triple-A for two weeks.

Hendricks has flashed that trademark command and execution in spurts in his two starts back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for almost 11 months.

‘‘Felt much more like myself from the start,” Hendricks said of his outing Tuesday in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory against the Rays. “Had a much better game plan going in, felt much more comfortable out there in general.”

Though Hendricks gave up three walks against Tampa Bay and didn’t get the decision, he limited the majors’ best offense to one run in five innings.

For the first time, Hendricks and Wesneski were on the Cubs’ active roster together. Hendricks hurt his shoulder even before the Cubs acquired Wesneski from the Yankees at the trade deadline last year and months before he made his major-league debut. Then this year, the Cubs optioned Wesneski to Triple-A before Hendricks wrapped up his rehab assignment in Iowa.

On Tuesday, the Cubs recalled Wesneski and optioned reliever Michael Rucker.

“We’re trying to get the most talented pitchers we can [in the bullpen],” manager David Ross said. “Stretching Rucker out consistently lately, him sucking down some innings for us was awesome — but just giving him a little bit of a break.”

Rucker threw two or more innings in his last three appearances but also allowed eight runs.

The Cubs view Wesneski, whose 93 mph fastball and sweeping slider are the featured pitches in his arsenal, as a starter in the long run. But he has come out of the bullpen in the minors and in his first two major-league outings last year. Wesneski expects this stint in the bullpen to be less scripted.

“This could help me out [in the long run],” said Wesneski, who has been working to trim his pregame start-day routine. “I know this sounds funny, like, ‘Hey, this could help you start.’ It actually does translate. You can start cutting stuff down and figure out, ‘I actually don’t need this, this and this. Why have I been doing this for the last year?’ ”

Routine is something Wesneski has asked Hendricks about. He has asked why he does certain things and how he structures his bullpen sessions.

He also has absorbed lessons from a sequencing perspective by watching Hendricks.

“More the ‘why’ is where I pick his brain,” Wesneski said. “Like, ‘Hey, why did you throw that pitch?’ He’ll say, ‘Oh, this guy swings like this, so it matches well.’ ”

Watching from the bullpen, Wesneski had a different view of Hendricks against the Rays.

Hendricks didn’t throw harder than 88.5 mph, but he didn’t have to. He allowed six hits. He stuck to his strengths, establishing his fastball early, then leaning on his changeup. He said he didn’t have a good feel for his curveball, which is why he didn’t throw many, but that’s something he’ll work on locking in before his next start.

“I don’t have to really try and be anything different is what it tells me,” Hendricks said.

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