Hendricks, Yu neck & neck for Cubs’ OD nod

July 15th, 2020

CHICAGO -- With the way the Cubs have mapped out their Summer Camp schedule, it has been no secret that the decision over the Opening Day starter remains narrowed to or . Manager David Ross just is not ready to announce his pick publicly yet.

"I need to talk to my pitchers before I talk to you guys," Ross said on Wednesday. "Hopefully, that's coming down the pike soon."

Both Hendricks and Darvish pitched on Tuesday night, which would put either of them in line for the July 24 Opening Day outing against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy has paired starters up for intrasquad games in order to build flexibility for later in camp, in case any arms need their individual schedule adjusted for any reason.

That is why right-handers and -- two other arms ticketed for the rotation, given José Quintana's injury (lacerated left thumb) -- started against each other on Wednesday afternoon. Veteran Jon Lester started on Sunday and will likely continue building up his innings count on Friday.

Looking at the Opening Day situation, Hendricks is roughly 10-15 pitches ahead of Darvish at the moment. In Tuesday's game, Hendricks worked efficiently over 6 1/3 innings and pulled up around 70 pitches. Darvish logged 3 2/3 innings and reached 60 pitches.

"He's on par for how I've always thought of him," Ross said of Hendricks. "That's exactly what I see out of Kyle Hendricks every time he goes out there: poise, execution, the ability to follow a scouting report. He's a pitcher that I have a ton of confidence in."

Delays pave way for prospects
Six Cubs players had COVID-19 test results pending on Wednesday morning, so the club brought four players up from its alternate training site in South Bend, Ind. The group included Brennan Davis (No. 3 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs Prospects list), catcher Miguel Amaya (No. 4), infielder Christopher Morel (No. 10) and infielder Robel Garcia.

In the third inning, both Amaya and Morel contributed to rallies. Amaya singled off Chatwood and later crossed the plate on a three-run homer by Ian Happ. Morel doubled in the bottom of the frame against Mills and then scored on a single by Kris Bryant to spark a three-run outburst.

Ross continued to express hope that the delays in testing that have come up in Summer Camp will be sorted out before Opening Day.

"We've got to support MLB," Ross said. "In such a unique environment, this is not easy. I think I've said that a million times. It's not easy on the players; it's not easy on Major League Baseball. I don't think it's anybody's fault that things are delayed. If you want to point fingers, we're focusing on the wrong task.

"We've got to focus on, as the Chicago Cubs, doing the best work we can when we're on that field and controlling what we can control. And testing's not in our control. So to be frustrated is just a waste of energy for me."

Worth noting
• Chatwood crossed the 70-pitch mark in a four-inning start in Wednesday's intrasquad game. The 30-year-old, who projects to be in the Cubs' rotation, allowed four runs on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He got through the first two innings easily before allowing four runs in his final two frames.

"I'm super excited about the season ahead for him in our rotation," Ross said, "being a guy that has legitimate stuff. He's got a big repertoire that I don't think he was able to take advantage of out of the 'pen."

• Catcher Willson Contreras continued to crush his own pitching staff on Wednesday, launching a solo homer off Chatwood in the fourth inning. It marked his team-leading fourth intrasquad homer, and he punctuated the shot to the left-center bleachers with a bat flip.

• Mills -- who is in the discussion for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ rotation -- allowed four runs on six hits, including five in the third, in 3 1/3 innings. Chicago cut Mills' third frame short after seven batters faced and then had him face two hitters in the fourth. He struck out one, walked none and yielded a solo homer to Josh Phegley.

• Ross pulled a handful of his regulars late in Wednesday's intrasquad game, opening the door for Danny Mueller, the Cubs' assistant home clubhouse manager, to suit up and patrol left field in the fifth inning. No balls were hit to Mueller, who had two staffers behind him in the bleachers with a sign that read, "Stick to your day job, Dan."