A new training program has Kyle Hendricks, and the Cubs, believing the best is yet to come

A new training program has Kyle Hendricks, and the Cubs, believing the best is yet to come

MESA, Ariz. – It’s not hard to argue that over the past two seasons, no one on the Cubs’ pitching staff has been better – or more consistent – than Kyle Hendricks. Over that span, Hendricks leads the team in innings pitched (376), FIP (3.70), and K/BB ratio (4.1). He also has the lowest WHIP (1.14), highest amount of soft contact (21.1%) and is the only starter to have a wOBA below .300. It seems just about everyone, besides Hendricks himself, has been thrilled with the production. 

“I didn’t like the trend that was going the last two years or so,” Hendricks said on Friday. “So I changed a lot of my offseason program, as far as training. And then I started playing catch and throwing earlier in the offseason this year. Just started getting ready and getting prepared earlier, trying to come into spring really ready to go and try and take advantage of this time also just to get better, not just trying to get ready for Game 1.” 

Everyone’s in the best shape of their lives right now, ready to put together the best season of their careers, but both David Ross and Willson Contreras went out of their way to note Hendricks came into camp looking especially strong – the product of a new, altered training program the pitcher elected to try out over the winter. After years of standard weight training and fitness regiments, Hendricks began noticing a concerning trend. 

“I was just getting very mechanical, I guess,” he said. “It wasn’t athletic. My arm path wasn’t smooth and easy. Also, I was just kind of fatiguing more than I would like to at the end of a season – especially in my lower half. So I made some changes. I feel really strong shoulder-wise, because I had that shoulder thing last year. Lower half feels a lot better, and I just feel more athletic overall. My mechanics kind of show it, so I’m just going to keep working on it.” 

The idea to switch came after listening to relievers Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler rave about their trainer. So Hendricks gave it a shot. Not only did the routine have him beginning his throwing routine earlier in the year, but the new exercises emphasized strength and fluidity of motion over traditional muscle building. And it’s made a world of difference. 

“[It’s] a lot more new school kind of stuff – a lot more movement stuff and becoming more athletic,” he said. “Not just stuff in the weight room to get me ready to go pitch on the mound, but movement stuff so I can feel better moving around the mound, too. It’s just made my whole mechanics flow better and not just get so pushy with it.” 

The drive to reinvent himself as a pitcher – especially after two seasons that, on the surface, don’t necessarily call for it – is what makes Hendricks such a fun and special player to coach, according to his catcher-turned-manager. 

“Kyle’s one of those guys where you just don’t have to worry much about as a coach,” Ross said. “He sets the right example, he goes about his business. He’s unemotional in every aspect of his game. Good or bad, you’d never know how his last start was. He comes in, he’s a worker, he prepares the right way, and goes out and gives you his best effort. I feel like he’s one of the guys you have to worry about least.” 

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MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona


MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona

The start of the MLB season has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but baseball could return sometime next month.

Late Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball and the Players Association are “increasingly focused” on a plan which could allow the 2020 season to start in May. 

According to Passan, the plan would entail all 30 teams playing games in the Phoenix area without fans. Potential sites include the area’s 10 spring training ballparks, as well as Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Players, coaches and other essential personnel would live in “relative isolation” in local hotels, only traveling to the stadium and back. Per Passan, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supportive of a plan for MLB’s return that follows social distancing and self-isolation protocols.

The plan depends on if the country sees a significant increase in the number of available coronavirus tests, ones with quick turnaround times. Some officials believe this may make June more realistic for baseball’s return, Passan said.

The plan would necessitate the approval of the players, who would be agreeing to leave their families for upwards of four-and-a-half months. Passan said there’s hope among union and league leadership that players will be convinced to play, citing the paychecks they’d receive, and the distraction baseball could provide the nation.

With the uniqueness of the situation, the league and union have discussed a number of possible significant changes. Passan mentioned several of them:

-Expanded rosters
-An electronic strike zone — assuring umpires and catchers are sufficiently distanced from one another
-No mound visits from coaches or catchers
-Seven-inning doubleheaders, allowing the league to play as close to 162 games as possible
-Micing up players regularly, to benefit TV viewers
-Team members sitting six feet apart in the stands rather than dugouts 

If the players and league agree to a deal, teams would head to Arizona in May — assuming the necessary housing, transportation and security are in place. 

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

As Major League Baseball and the Players Association think of ways to salvage the 2020 season, one idea broached involves all 30 teams playing in Arizona.

In a Monday phone call, MLB and the union discussed every team possibly playing in empty stadiums in the Phoenix area this season, according to the Associated Press. The idea is still in its infancy and the union would want to survey its members to see if they’d be on board.

There are 10 spring training ballparks in Arizona within 50 miles of each other. An obvious concern is Arizona’s severe summertime heat, which, according to MLB super-agent Scott Boras, could be combatted by playing daily tripleheaders in the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

Boras also noted the number of precautions that would have to be taken to ensure the league keeps those involved, and the outside world at large, safe.

RELATED: Two Cubs employees test positive for COVID-19

“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way,” he told AP’s Ronald Blum. “It’s not it’s not a normal life, this idea.

“You’re going to have an identified group of people. You’re going to have a constantly tested group of people. And you’re going to have a very limited access of those people to the outside world so that you can assure a very uncontaminated league, if you will, to produce a product that is inspirational to our country.”