(670 The Score) When Cubs ace Jon Lester was a young pitcher in Boston coming up in the big leagues, he learned what it took to compete from veteran teammate John Lackey. The mentorship proved valuable for Lester.
In turn, Lester has passed along what he learned from Lackey to other youngsters, such as the 28-year-old Kyle Hendricks, who has already accomplished plenty in his young career. There’s a chain of respect and teaching in the works.
“That’s unbelievable,” Hendricks said of Lester on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on Tuesday. “He doesn’t have the responsibility to do that or he’s not told to do that. It’s just the person he is and what he wants to pass on. A lot of that probably comes from Lack. I had the pleasure of playing with him (the last two years), which was unbelievable. I learned so much from him as well.
“Just to have guys like that around — Lester, Lackey, even (Jake) Arrieta when he was here — just to be able to watch them and what they do, that’s honestly where you learn.”
Now, it’s Hendricks — who’s known as “The Professor” — passing along what he has learned to other youngsters during spring training in Arizona. The Cubs are attempting to develop young pitching within their organization after years of building with position players as prospects and primarily acquiring pitching help from the outside, and Hendricks is serving as a mentor.
“That’s where I’m trying to get to now,” Hendricks said. “I came up playing with some of these guys, so I know them a little more since I’ve been in the system. So it makes it a little easier when we’re out here taking (pitcher fielding practice) in a group, just to start talking pitching with some of these guys. I definitely try and take that on. I just love baseball so much and talking pitching, it’s not a burden at all for me.”
The Cubs enter this 2018 season with high hopes once again. After falling short in the National League Championship Series last fall, they return with a bolstered rotation that is comprised of Lester, Hendricks, Jose Quintana and new additions in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood.
Add that rotation to a position player group that’s among the game’s best, and the Cubs should be a team competing for the World Series. Hendricks certainly sees the potential.
“This team definitely can be the best team in baseball,” he said. “We have all the pieces there. All it comes down to is putting in the work.”