By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — Watching Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks ascend to the major leagues should be a great lesson for the scouts and numbers geeks who fall in love with power pitchers. The 25-year-old Hendricks has used a cerebral approach and pinpoint command as his ticket to success so far in his brief big league experience.READ MORE: Two Men Shot In Robbery Attempt At Garfield Red Line Station
Using the sinker and slider as dominant pitches rarely gets people excited about you as a prospect. In the case of Hendricks, that type of pitch reportoire has been a staple for his solid record and a big reason why manager Joe Maddon has penciled him in as his fourth starter.
“I appreciate that,” Hendricks said of his rotation status. “Nothing is ever set in stone. I will just keep doing what I am doing, and hopefully that will stand up.”
In his 2014 debut season, Hendricks was 7-2 with a tidy 2.46 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings, a key to his success. Combined between the Triple-A and the majors, Hendricks won 17 games and was able to accrue 183 innings. He also seems to be one of the most resourceful players in Cubs camp.
“I believe ever year in pro ball you learn more about yourself and your body,” Hendricks said. “This offseason was no different. I learned more about what I needed to do to be ready. I had a little bit different throwing program, took it a little easier but am still ready to go. I threw enough to stay healthy and hopefully not get hurt, just enough not to overdue it.”
For Hendricks, his 86-mph fastball sets up all of his breaking stuff. Having many resources like video and advanced metrics have made his transition to the big leagues much easier as well.
“That all has been huge for me,” Hendricks said. “That is one of the things that got easier making the transition from the minor leagues. It all starts in the video room for me — they have every at-bat for every hitter. You have the advance scouts and guys on the coaching staff making scouting reports for you. In the minor leagues, you don’t even have a scouting report. You must do everything on your own.”READ MORE: Fields Making Progress, But Won't Play Vs. Cardinals; Dalton To Start At QB Again For Bears
Using baseball IQ and all the material available has helped Hendricks be successful so far. Pitching to a batter’s weakness is an adjustments he has made use of as a major leaguer.
“In most situations, I have tried to do that,” Hendricks said. “There are always times you must go with your strength. You get in a jam late in a game and you have to win a ballgame, that is when you go to your strength.”
As a right-hander, Hendricks even getting signed with his lack of velocity was unusual.
“Normally you see the left-handed pitchers make it with less velocity,” Maddon said. “They have that natural change-up that breaks a way from right-handed hitters. You don’t see many others make it unless they have a way-above-average pitch beside the fastball.”
The first spring training stint with Maddon has been eye-opening for Hendricks.
“It is very exciting around here this year,” Hendricks said. “Don’t get me wrong — last year was as well. This year there is a somewhat different vibe, and Joe has been awesome. He has been very laid back. This has been a very accountable camp. You do your work and do what you need to do, and he will not get in your way. One of the interesting things he said was as a team, we need to learn how to make the playoffs. He said you have to learn how to play in the playoffs before you can be there multiple times. That is the goal he has laid out for us, to be in the playoffs multiple, consecutive years.”MORE NEWS: Accused Teen Gunman's Parents Charged In Oxford High School Shooting
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.