Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ‘still battling’ after first three starts

SHARE Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ‘still battling’ after first three starts
SHARE Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ‘still battling’ after first three starts

When he is on the mound, Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks shows as much emotion as a rosin bag.

Yet no one’s patience is completely unlimited. Another bumpy start might cause the stoic Hendricks to let out an angry scream.

OK, fine, maybe an audible sigh.

‘‘Still battling myself,’’ Hendricks said after his latest performance, a loss Saturday to the Angels. ‘‘Running my changeup too much. My fastball command wasn’t there, really, again. At least the movement was better. I was getting sink. . . .

‘‘It was closer than the last one, so I’ve got to stick with what I’m doing in my side work.’’

Statistics show just how badly Hendricks is battling.

After three starts, he is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA. He has given up 24 hits in 13„ innings. Opponents are hitting .393 against him.

How strange is that last number? Take a look at Hendricks’ opposing batting averages through the years: .242 in 2014, .244 in 2015, .207 in 2016, .242 in 2017, .247 in 2018 and .393 in 2019.

Hendricks is trying to stay patient and keep the big picture in mind as he analyzes his early-season struggles.

‘‘You can’t rush the process, but it definitely gets frustrating,’’ he said. ‘‘I need to do a better job and give the team a better chance to win when I’m out there, regardless [of the situation], and set a better tone.

‘‘Yeah, you want it to come quick, but at least I’m seeing something. I’ve just got to stick with what I’m doing.’’

Manager Joe Maddon has seen Hendricks at his best. The methodical right-hander finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2016, when he went 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA in the regular season and 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA in five playoff starts.

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In five-plus seasons, Hendricks never has posted an ERA above 4.00. He never has had a sub-.500 record. He never has given up more hits than innings pitched in a season.

That’s part of the reason the Cubs signed Hendricks to a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension from 2020 through 2023 before the start of this season.

‘‘He deserves it,’’ Maddon said after the deal was announced. ‘‘He’s at that perfect age for doing something like this. And just who he is, if you’re an organization, you get as many Kyle Hendrickses as you possibly can and keep them. He’s just that guy.

‘‘He’s really in the prime of his pitching career. He’s done some great work to this point. He’s going to do even better work.’’

Fast-forward to Hendricks’ five-inning battle against the Angels.

‘‘He was having a tough game,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We were very fortunate that he got out of that with five [innings] and three [runs].’’

Hendricks cites a simple cause for his issues.

‘‘I need to be more aggressive establishing fastball command,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got to trust it more. I’ve just got to keep working.’’

NOTE: Bad weather prompted the Cubs to postpone their series finale against the Angels. No makeup date has been announced.

Right-hander Tyler Chatwood was scheduled to make his first start of the season, but the day off means right-hander Yu Darvish will start on regular rest Monday against the Marlins.

Regardless, manager Joe Maddon said he has seen positive signs from Chatwood.

‘‘We’ve talked about him: He gets off-kilter for a pitch or two, he’s better able to readjust and get back in the zone,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘His stuff has been outstanding. He’s been throwing up to 96. His curve has been snapping. He’s got a nice little cutter. He’s worked a changeup in there. He’s feeling pretty good about himself.’’

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