Kyle Hendricks has no intention of taking things slow in Cubs camp

Kyle Hendricks has no intention of taking things slow in Cubs camp

PEORIA, Ariz. — Kyle Hendricks has picked up right where he left off last season.

Following the best season of his career, the Cy Young candidate sees no reason to take things slow this spring training.

Nope, he's jumping right in with both feet.

Even with Joe Maddon and the Cubs taking special care to reign in the starting pitchers in an effort to maintain health.

Hendricks made his second appearance of the spring Friday at Peoria Stadium against the Seattle Mariners, allowing only a groundball single in three shutout innings, striking out four batters.

That runs his official Cactus League line to: 5 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts.

Spring training stats don't matter, sure, but going beyond those numbers, Hendricks said he already feels comfortable with his mechanics and feel of his pitches.

It's as if he didn't even take three-plus months off in between that epic Game 7 of the World Series and Feb. 14, when Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to Mesa, Ariz.

"I've approached every spring the same way," Hendricks said. "I know what I need to get in throwing-wise and what I need to do to be ready.

"I've learned more about myself what I need to do to get ready, but as far as kinda taking it easy or waiting until Opening Day, that's not really my style."

Hendricks is unique in that he throws nearly every day, even in spring training. Most pitchers take time to work up to that.

After throwing approximately 20 pitches in his first spring start last week, Hendricks went and tossed another 40 or so pitches in the bullpen immediately after, just because he felt he needed to throw more and wanted to build up his arm strength.

"You just have to know who you are and for me, it's taken me years to find my routine and what works best," he said. "I definitely know now I'm one of those guys that likes to throw a little more."

Here's Hendricks' typical four-day plan in between starts, as he ran down Friday afternoon:

Day 1: Weighted ball routine
Day 2: Bullpen + band work
Day 3: Bodyblade routine
Day 4: Light band work

That changes a little bit, of course, in spring training when he's not necessarily throwing every fifth day, but he said he's also worked in long toss and is still making sure he does something every day.

"Shoulder strengthening stuff has really helped me stay in shape, prevent injury," Hendricks said. "So I put a lot of stock into it. I do it every day.

"I know some guys don't. Some guys only do it bullpen days or when they start. I think it's just a personal preference thing."

Of course, Hendricks is also a unique case in that he is very low-stress, from his repeatable delivery to his below-average velocity to his incredibly calm demeanor that helps keep him from overthrowing or trying to do too much.

That being said, Hendricks still endured the longest season of his career in 2016, throwing 215.1 innings (27 more than 2015 or any other year) and pitched into November for the first time ever.

So is there any part of him that thinks he needs to take the foot off the gas a little bit after last season?

"It's something you really have to watch because each year, I've thrown more and more," he said. "It's really keeping up on your arm care and your workouts and your running. Just being in good shape helps: Preventing injury, those kinds of things.

"But you have to just be aware of your body. I know what my body feels like now that I've gone through a couple full seasons, so it's just really being aware of that and seeing if you are starting to regress a little bit.

"If you notice that, maybe take a step back. But I haven't hit that point, really, ever. Until I get there, I'm just gonna keep with my routine, but definitely need to be aware of that."

Hendricks feels like everything is right where it needs to be on March 10, a little over three weeks before the Cubs' Opening Day tilt against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

"You can't be searching for things that aren't there," Hendricks said. "So if everything's good and feels good for me, I'm taking it for what it is and I'm just moving forward and making sure my arm's in shape to be ready for Opening Day.

"You can take more advantage of what you're doing in spring if your mechanics are in line and you're already feeling good about everything. You can take advantage of the next step, working on the sequences with the catchers already or making one start feeling like it's a regular season start and taking it a little more seriously.

"There's a lot of things you can do, I think, to progress yourself even if everything's falling in line already."

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans. 



Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 48th homer of the season came off of the St. Louis Cardinals on August 19, 1998, in a 6-8 loss.

With two-outs, Sosa sent a deep shot off of Kent Bottenfield.

The home run was even more special for Sosa, due to it coming against the Cardinals and Mark McGwire, his home run adversary for the year. 

In the game Sosa went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the exact same stat line McGwire finished with.