Cubs

Cubs: Keeping it simple has Kyle Hendricks in 'really nice rhythm'

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Cubs: Keeping it simple has Kyle Hendricks in 'really nice rhythm'

With the trade deadline just a few weeks away, the Cubs admit they have to address their starting pitching depth.

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But Kyle Hendricks is proving he's no longer a question mark in the Cubs' rotation.

The 25-year-old righty hasn't allowed a run in his last 22.1 innings to stabilize a Cubs starting staff that has seen bouts of inconsistency from Jon Lester at the top, a lack of execution from Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada and the No. 5 spot and now a Jason Hammel hamstring injury.

"It starts with command," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Command of all his pitches, command of his fastball, really locating well and then off that, his changeup has been very good.

"He's just in such a really nice rhythm right now. He relies on location a lot. And that's why you've seen some really outstanding outings."

Hendricks shut out the White Sox for seven innings Friday, "blowing up" bats as he induced a lot of weak contact - only two balls were hit to the outfield besides the five hits he allowed.

[MORE - Cubs offense absent in 'non-fortuitous' Crosstown opener]

Maddon opted to remove Hendricks from the game after only 90 pitches, saying he felt the second-year starter had reached his limit.

With the outing, Hendricks lowered his season ERA to 3.55 and WHIP to 1.12, numbers that are right there with Lester (3.48 ERA, 1.28 WHIP).

Hendricks is a cerebral pitcher, a Dartmouth graduate with a thirst for scouting reports, absorbing as much information as he can before each start.

But when he's on the mound, keeping it simple has been his key to success lately.

"I think that mindset [has helped] - going one pitch at a time and just making good pitches," Hendricks said. "Trying not to do too much, just simplifying everything."

Hendricks impressed during his rookie campaign last year, going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 starts.

Even despite his recent hot streak, Hendricks says he still feels like he was sharper at points last year and has room to grow this season.

"I still don't feel 100 percent sharp, but as far as my mentality right now, I think it's maybe as good as it's ever been since I've been up [in the majors]," he said.

"Just that simple mentality, I've really stuck to it and done a good job with it. [Now I'll] try and go into the [All-Star] break and keep it going when we come back."

Hendricks' hot hand has come in the midst of a record-setting stretch for Cubs pitching.

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Cubs starters have allowed two or fewer runs in 11 straight games, the first time that has happened in franchise history since at least 1914. Hendricks and Co. have posted a 1.14 ERA (9 ER in 68.1 IP) in that stretch.

"Our whole staff is pretty much rolling pretty good right now," Anthony Rizzo said.

"We got Jonny and Jake [Arrieta] going the next two games. I know we [face Chris] Sale tomorrow, but we're pretty happy with what we got right now."

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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