SAN DIEGO — For all the personal shots at the Ricketts family and the questions about when the Cubs would act like a big-market team again, Scott Boras always understood the turnaround would be good for business.
“I didn’t say we wouldn’t want to be a part of it,” Boras said with a laugh. “I’d love to go to the World Series and have like seven guys playing on the team.”
The game’s most powerful agent must have enjoyed Thursday night’s 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, watching Kris Bryant and Addison Russell blast two home runs and show why his clients had been two of the top three prospects on Baseball America’s rankings.
All this young talent came together as Kyle Hendricks put the finishing touches on a complete-game shutout that took only two hours and eight minutes. Hendricks, who grew up in Southern California, worked fast in front of about 25 friends and family members, getting back the feel for what made him so successful during last year’s breakout rookie campaign.
Hendricks got a beer shower and a dance party in the clubhouse — or at least “something like that” — after putting up seven strikeouts against zero walks to notch his first win this season.
“I’m not going to say I needed it, but I kind of did need it,” said Hendricks (1-1, 4.14 ERA). “Not winning a game in a month and a half can drive a guy nuts.”
Theo Epstein’s front office acquired Hendricks in the 2012 Ryan Dempster trade with the Texas Rangers, collecting as many long-term assets as possible while dealing with some of the franchise’s financial limitations that have so frustrated Boras.
“It’s a lot of fun when all these young guys start performing,” Hendricks said. “We have such good veteran presences here to make us feel comfortable and just let us go out and play our game.”
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Bryant remembered coming here as a University of San Diego student, sitting in the cheap seats high above right field before getting drafted No. 2 overall in 2013 and getting a $6.7 million signing bonus.
Bryant set the tone in the first inning by crushing a curveball from Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne. It had an exit velocity of 101.5 mph leaving the bat, traveling 417 feet over the center-field fence for a two-run homer.
“I definitely think we’re going in the right direction,” Bryant said. “It’s important for us to just focus on the next game, but it’s hard not to look into the future. We’re playing pretty well right now. Us young guys are stepping up, but there’s going to be times where we’re not doing it, and the older guys will step up. We got a pretty good group here.
“There’s better days to come and we’re all excited for that.”
Bryant has five homers, 27 RBIs, 24 walks and an .894 OPS through his first 32 games in The Show. But even Boras didn’t seem to want to revive the service-time debate from spring training or get into told-you-so trash talk.
Not when Russell — the headliner in last summer’s Jeff Samardzija deal with the Oakland A’s — is the second-youngest player in the National League at 21 years and 118 days old.
“This organization and their people (have been great) for both Kris and Addison,” Boras said. “You got to remember they’ve done a great job, because these guys have dramatically improved since they’ve been in this organization. Addison was traded here a year ago, and he has jumped up. It’s really a credit to all those coaches and the development staff of the Cubs. We’re always happy the Cubs are drafting our players.”
Boras — who once played for the Cubs in their minor-league system and practiced law in Chicago — has joked that Joe Maddon is the only guy he knows who can go to an RV park and make $25 million. The Cubs now have the right manager to lead this team.
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“Joe Maddon’s a talent,” Boras said. “He does a great job of giving these guys a psychological approach.
“He’s very, very good at giving players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And I think that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well here.”
The Cubs left San Diego with a 23-17 record, traveling to Phoenix for a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. With Memorial Day approaching, if the future isn’t now, it also doesn’t have to be three years from now.
“We have a lot to offer this team,” Russell said. “We’re talented guys. Just keep getting better. That’s the goal each day.”