CHICAGO -- The comparisons to Hall of Fame great Greg Maddux aren't going to go away anytime soon for Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Not after he threw a gem against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2 hours, 22 minutes to beat them 3-0 on Tuesday night.
Hendricks is a throwback, to a day when radar guns didn't dominate the conversation and working quickly was the norm.
"That's something I've always done since I was little," Hendricks said after lasting 7 1/3 innings. "The pace of the game is big for me. Every time I go out there I just feel like I can make pitches. It grows each start."
His fan base is growing with each start as well. In his last three, he won in Los Angeles against the first-place Dodgers, beat the Colorado Rockies in hitter-friendly Coors Field and took down the Central-leading Brewers. He's doing it with a mental approach to the game we haven't seen in Chicago since, well, let’s just say in a long time. His ERA is a nifty 1.73 after six career starts.
"He's repeated his outings in terms of execution and the calmness he shows out there," manager Rick Renteria said. "He did a nice job of keeping them off balance, and was very efficient."
In some previous starts, Hendricks has given up some hard contact but not a lot of damage. On Tuesday, he gave up neither as the Brewers barely got good wood on the ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, of the 25 balls put in play against Hendricks, only four were considered hard hit. Hendricks admitted he made only a few mistakes. The Brewers concurred, at least according to the Cubs first baseman.
"When guys get on base they're saying he's tough," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "He's sneaky. The best part is he can induce the [double-play] ball, whenever."
That came in the fifth inning when the Brewers finally got a baserunner to second. Hendricks quickly got Jean Segura to hit into a 6-4-3 inning-ender.
"It's movement and location," Hendricks said. "I haven't thrown many pitches over the middle of the plate."
Before we get ahead of ourselves, the last Cubs rookie to throw this well was Randy Wells in 2009. He didn't last long in the Cubs' rotation. Before that, it was Mark Prior. And we all know what happened to him.
No one has a crystal ball, but this just feels different. Maybe it's Hendricks' confidence or maybe it's simply the head on his shoulders. He's quickly becoming known as a very smart major league pitcher.
"One thing that has really helped is the [scouting] reports we get," Hendricks said. "It makes it much easier just to follow that."
That coincides with what team President Theo Epstein said recently regarding Hendricks' chances at this level with more information available to him in the majors than in the minors.
"We speculated he might take it to another level when he got to the big leagues because he uses all the tools available to him as well as anybody," Epstein said. "We have video in the minor leagues, but we don't have this much video. We have scouting reports in the minor leagues, but we don't have them this extensive. He just attacks the video, attacks the scouting reports. It's a huge weapon for him."
And he’s a pleasure to watch. With baseball slowing down more and more, the idea of a young, quick worker is almost unheard of. And his temperament isn't bad either. That's also a reminder to his boyhood idol, Maddux.
"You do get a smile out of him, but he's as even-keeled as you can get an individual to be," Renteria said.