Kyle Hendricks cites Maddux, Peavy as biggest influences
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media August 25, 2014 7:07PM
CUBS AT REDS
Tuesday: Travis Wood (7-11, 4.91 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (15-7, 2.20), 6:10 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Wednesday: Jacob Turner (4-7, 5.77) vs. TBA, 6:10 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Thursday: Jake Arrieta (7-4, 2.53) vs. TBA, 11:35 a.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Updated: August 26, 2014 9:55PM
Maybe it’s no coincidence Cubs rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks so often is compared to Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. After all, Maddux was one of his childhood idols, a pitcher to pattern himself after.
‘‘Growing up, I watched Greg Maddux a lot,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘I’ve heard the comparisons, but that’s going to be tough to live up to. But it’s hard not to like the guy because he was a complete pitcher in every essence of the word.’’
Hendricks, 24, said he would have relished the chance to sit beside Maddux in the dugout during a game, listening and learning.
‘‘I would have loved to have done that,’’ he said. ‘‘If you have someone like that around, why not pick their brain?’’
The Cubs’ dugout Hendricks occupies is populated mostly with young players learning the ropes together. They are fueled by optimism, if not experience.
‘‘In a way, having a lot of young guys is comfortable because we’ve played together coming through the minor leagues,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘At the same time, you have to have veteran guys because they’ve been here. They know the ins and outs. They’ve faced a lot of these hitters for years, so it always helps to have older guys to lean on and learn from and see how things are done.’’
Less than two months into his major-league career, Hendricks seems to have separated himself as a quick study to a complex game.
‘‘I think he goes into it with a pretty calm demeanor and how he wants to go about it,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘I think that’s just preparation.’’
And, in Hendricks’ case, a personality and approach not unlike the student of economics he is.
‘‘In a way, I guess it is,’’ he said. ‘‘I like to watch a lot of video and break down hitters. I really stick pretty close to the scouting reports we have on guys. It’s just the way I work and what’s worked for me so far. I guess school [he earned an economics degree from Dartmouth] helped with my mindset and working through situations.’’
Hendricks was the Cubs’ minor-league pitcher of the year last season and has continued to live up to his talent in the majors. He is 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA in eight starts and is the first Cubs rookie to post six consecutive quality starts since Kerry Wood had two streaks of seven in 1998.
‘‘When I first got up here, you’re kind of unsure of yourself because you throw to minor-league hitters and then come up here and face all these big-league lineups,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re thinking, ‘Am I really good enough to play at this level?’
‘‘Then you start getting guys out and start realizing it’s pretty much the same game. If you make good pitches, even though they’re the best hitters in the world, a good hitter still gets hits only three out of 10 times. You start building confidence and getting into a routine, and you realize it’s the same game.’’
That philosophy isn’t unlike the thinking Maddux nurtured. But it isn’t the only approach Hendricks wants to follow.
‘‘Being from Southern California, I loved watching [former White Sox right-hander] Jake Peavy when he was with the Padres, the way he competed, the bulldog mentality on the mound,’’ he said. ‘‘[Maddux and Peavy] were different kinds of pitchers, but that’s kind of how it is. You look up to some guys who are similar [to you] and some guys you kind of want to be like.’’