Thankful Kyle Hendricks ‘Excited to Attack This Season’

I haven’t seen reports of any particular players showing up to camp in the best shape of their lives, but Kyle Hendricks already has his cliché game on point. The Professor has always come across as a future front office exec in training, and he was doing his best Jed Hoyer impersonation on Thursday morning as organized activities continued at Sloan Park.

“It’s amazing,” Hendricks told CHGO’s Ryan Herrera and other reporters gathered at his locker. “There’s no other place I want to be. Best organization in the whole league, best fans in the whole league by far, and just these guys, you know, it’s family. I’ve been around these guys for so long, the staff and everything, just so comfortable here.”

Context matters in this case because Hendricks was unable to participate fully in spring training last season as he worked through a capsular tear in his right shoulder that shut him down in July of 2022. The righty opted against surgery, so a prolonged shutdown was followed by a drawn-out ramp period that saw him tweak his mechanics before finally returning to a big league mound in late May of last year.

Despite what a surprising number of naysayers will tell you, Hendricks put up a solid season with a 3.74 ERA and just 27 walks to 93 strikeouts over 137 innings. Despite a slight decrease in strikeout rate, his 19.1% swinging-strike rate was right in line with his career average and his hard-hit rate dropped considerably. That led to a 0.85 HR/9 mark which was Hendricks’ lowest since 2016 (0.71).

This all came after he had posted a combined 4.78 ERA with a 1.56 HR/9 mark across the two previous seasons, causing many to believe Hendricks was done. But the soft-tossing righty was able to bounce back so well that the Cubs had more than enough confidence to pick up his $16.5 million option for this 2024 following reports that extension talks may have been underway.

Oh, he also became a father just a few months ago, so it’s understandable that Hendricks would have a fresh outlook on the start of a new season.

“I just wanted to be that guy again, taking the ball every fifth day and being a consistent force for my team and giving us a chance to win,” he explained. “It was so disappointing just not being able to play and doing what I love for that long, so yeah, standing here now this time being fully healthy and good to go, having a normal spring ahead of me, it’s way better being in this position.”

With all the negativity circulating online about what the Cubs have or haven’t done — and I’m not saying most of it isn’t warranted — it’s easy to forget that those on the inside don’t view things the way fans do. If players harbored the same defeatist mentality as what you see across social media, they’d never be able to get out of bed the morning after a bad game.

As such, it’s nice to hear Hendricks talking about the possibility of a winning season even if not all of us share the same level of enthusiasm. Hope doesn’t have to be a bad thing, folks.

“So thankful for just how everything has worked out, how the offseason’s gone, and just excited to attack this season,” Hendricks said. “I think we’re so excited with where we’re at right now and the promise of this year for us and what it could mean in October.”

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