One Cubs changeup-thrower to another: How Kyle Hendricks is impacting Jordan Wicks

Wicks held the Giants to two runs in 6 2⁄3 innings in the Cubs’ 8-2 win Wednesday.

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Jordan Wicks #36 of the Chicago Cubs is doused with Gatorade by Daniel Palencia #48 after the game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on September 06, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Jordan Wicks #36 of the Chicago Cubs is doused with Gatorade by Daniel Palencia #48 after the game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on September 06, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

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Left-hander Jordan Wicks thought it was a terrible idea to interrupt Kyle Hendricks’ warmups before his first spring-training start coming out of the 2022 lockout. But, Wicks told the Sun-Times, Cubs great Rick Sutcliffe insisted on introducing the two.

“Me and Kyle were actually joking about that the other day in the weight room,” Wicks said.

Now the team’s oldest starter and youngest starter are pitching one after another in the major-league rotation, trying to help carry the Cubs to their first playoff berth in three years.

The Cubs were short in the rotation when they called up Wicks less than two weeks ago. Rookie right-hander Javier Assad was already filling in for injured Marcus Stroman. And veteran lefty Drew Smyly’s stint out of the bullpen didn’t provide the cure for his struggles as a starter. The Cubs didn’t know exactly what they were going to get from Wicks when he made the jump to the majors, but it was worth a shot.

Well, he has been a stabilizing force during a defining stretch of the wild-card race.

“I’m not satisfied until we’re in the playoffs,” Wicks said after the Cubs’ 8-2 victory Wednesday against the Giants.

In his third major-league game, Wicks (3-0) held the Giants scoreless through the first six innings before allowing two runs in the seventh. When he left the game with two outs in the seventh inning, the deepest start of his young career, the Wrigley Field faithful gave him a standing ovation.

Wicks was the first Cubs rookie starter since Hendricks in 2014 to be credited with a win in his Wrigley Field debut. And with the three-game series sweep, the Cubs, who occupy the second National League wild-card spot, moved six games ahead of the Giants.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” Hendricks said to the Sun-Times. “Seems like he’s already been here for, like, five years.”

The Cubs selected Wicks out of Kansas State with their first pick of the 2021 draft, No. 21 overall. He attended the draft in Colorado. And in the immediate aftermath of his selection, standing in front of an MLB Draft-branded backdrop with a Cubs jersey buttoned over his suit and purple tie, he talked about the impact that being in the same organization as a pitcher such as Hendricks could have on his career.

Hendricks has put together a long career, which includes an ERA title and World Series championship, with a command-control profile and a changeup as his signature pitch.

“He’s a guy that you want your career to look like,” Wicks said. “You want to model it after him and the success he’s had.”

The pair got to know each other better in spring training this year. Wicks was in minor-league camp, and Hendricks was working back from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him for half the previous season.

“He took the time every day to really talk to me about whatever I needed,” Wicks said, “which was awesome.”

Hendricks downplayed his own selflessness, saying part of it was his rehab schedule.

“It was good to hang out with him, though,” Hendricks said. “I’m glad I had him.”

They had good conversations about baseball, but also golf. Hendricks showed Wicks how he cuts his changeup.

“It blew my mind,” Wicks said. “I could not even comprehend it.”

After Wicks’ debut, in which he retired 15 consecutive batters in Pittsburgh, an ever-humble Hendricks was just as complimentary.

“The depth on the changeup, I mean, that thing just drops off the table,” Hendricks said. “So I’ve got to ask him. I need some tips on that change.”

Wrigley Field got its first look at that pitch — and four others. As Wicks walked off the field to applause, he made sure to scan the stands and soak in the moment.

“It was really special for me,” he said from the podium after the game.

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