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Pitcher Kyle Hendricks has good arm, great brain

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Updated: March 27, 2014 6:52AM



MESA, Ariz. — Right-hander Kyle Hendricks is smart enough to know where he fits in the Cubs’ big picture.

No, really. He’s smart. Books-without-pictures smart. Economics-degree-from-Dartmouth smart. Maybe even
replace-Theo-someday smart.

‘‘I don’t know about that,’’ he said, laughing.

For now, all Hendricks is concerned about is outsmarting a few more hitters with the best changeup and command in the Cubs’ system and figuring out how to make it to the big leagues.

The California kid the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers in the trade for right-hander Ryan Dempster in July 2012 might not have the power arm to make the top-prospects lists his teammates seem to dominate this spring. But the Cubs’ reigning minor-league pitcher of the year might be poised to get a shot at the big leagues just as quickly as any of them.

‘‘The raw stuff definitely isn’t necessarily there for me,’’ said Hendricks, whose fastball is in the 90 mph range. ‘‘For prospects [lists], that’s what they look for. I don’t worry about it too much. I don’t mind flying under the radar.’’

Especially when he envisions the kind of career a command pitcher such as Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had.

‘‘[Maddux] was always my idol,’’ Hendricks, 24, said. ‘‘At the beginning of his career, he threw hard. But more toward the end of his career, that’s when I saw him more. I just loved the way he would throw to guys and really took notes
off that and tried to emulate him a lot.’’

After going 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA in two stops in his first full season in the Cubs’ system, Hendricks will get his first shot to show something to the big-league bosses with a start in the team’s intrasquad game Wednesday.

The Cubs already have
decided he’ll start this season where he finished 2013 — at Class AAA Iowa. Even right-hander Jake Arrieta’s sore shoulder doesn’t open an
opportunity for Hendricks to battle for a big-league spot out of camp.

‘‘Their plan, they know what it is, and I have to trust them,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s definitely a bigger picture going on in this whole clubhouse. There’s a ton of young guys coming up that are going to be part of something, and that’s what the front office has been stressing to the young guys: ‘You’re going to have your chance . . . and just be ready for it when it happens.’’

Hendricks already made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to earn his degree, going back to school over two winters to finish after signing with the Rangers in 2011.

‘‘You can only play baseball for so long, even if you have a great career,’’ said Hendricks, who hopes to stay in the game when he’s done playing, maybe trading in his jersey for a front-office polo shirt.

Not that he’s gunning for team president Theo Epstein’s job. But general manager Jed Hoyer’s?

‘‘It’d be fun to be a GM,’’ he said. ‘‘But at this point, [pitching] is my love, and that’s all I’m going to do right now.’’

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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