Kyle Hendricks impressive despite loss against Cardinals
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media July 27, 2014 8:11PM
Updated: August 29, 2014 1:10PM
The Cubs’ touted minor-league position prospects have the physical talent.
But mental aptitude is the element that can be the difference for a gifted pitcher — as it was for the onetime Cub inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
And as it could be for the young Cubs right-hander who was on the Wrigley Field mound as Greg Maddux was ushered into Cooperstown.
‘‘I’ve been asked about [Maddux] before,’’ Kyle Hendricks said. ‘‘He was one of the best pitchers of all time, and one of my favorites. He’s a guy I’d like to model myself after.’’
For now, Hendricks has the more immediate goal of trying to manage the weight of expectations that he can become a rotation mainstay.
He reinforced that hope in his third major-league outing. Despite taking the 1-0 loss, he was nearly the equal of his mound opponent, All-Star Adam Wainwright, who improved to 13-5 after allowing five hits in seven innings.
The difference between them was the home run by Matt Holliday in the first inning off Hendricks (1-1), who allowed seven hits in 61/3 innings.
‘‘Even the ball Holliday hit out of the park against him wasn’t a bad pitch,’’ Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Hendricks, 24, who has an economics degree from Dartmouth.
‘‘He’s very prepared. For him, it’s like going to school. When you have to take a test and you know you’re prepared, it’s a little easier. He didn’t have to cram.
‘‘You can see he’s very calm.’’
Hendricks had watched the Cardinals the last two games, studying tendencies and cataloging them —not unlike the ‘‘thinking’’ pitcher Maddux.
‘‘All pitchers are out there thinking,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘That’s the goal. I take that mindset into every game, and on the mound, the biggest thing is making adjustments. That’s the thing that separates pitchers — figuring out what the hitter is trying to do and making adjustments.’’
Hendricks had runners on base in all but one inning, but he induced two double plays and ended two other innings with strikeouts.
‘‘My main goal is to commit to every single pitch and throw with conviction,’’ Hendricks said.
Hendricks came to the Cubs from the Texas Rangers in 2012 as part of the Ryan Dempster trade. Last season, he was named the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year after going 13-4 at Class AA Tennessee and Class AAA Iowa.
In his first major-league start July 10 in Cincinnati, he gave up three runs in the first inning. Since then, he has allowed only two runs in 181/3 innings.
‘‘This is a very bright young man who has shown he can pitch,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He knows how to use the skills he has. He knows how to apply a game plan.
‘‘He knows how to read what hitters are trying to do to him, so he makes adjustments. It’s a great challenge, but I’m sure he’s not thinking of anything but what he has to do.
‘‘To this point, he does bring a balance. I’m not too concerned about him overthinking things. He’s been able to slow things down. That is something you worry about with young players, but he takes a breath and steps back and sees what he has to do and attacks it.’’
He has done it by understanding himself as well as the game.
‘‘It’s the same game,’’ Hendricks said in comparing the minor leagues to the majors. ‘‘If you put in the work and prepare for each game, you can have success. And don’t try to change who you are. Stay true to yourself.’’