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Curveballs ‘point of emphasis’ for Hendricks 

Expect to see more hooks from the Cubs righty this spring
@MLBastian
February 28, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- The speed and efficiency with which Kyle Hendricks worked on Thursday afternoon was nothing out of the ordinary for the Cubs' precision-based right-hander. What was different was seeing Hendricks break out more curveballs than usual in his Cactus League debut. "It's going to be a point of

MESA, Ariz. -- The speed and efficiency with which Kyle Hendricks worked on Thursday afternoon was nothing out of the ordinary for the Cubs' precision-based right-hander. What was different was seeing Hendricks break out more curveballs than usual in his Cactus League debut.

"It's going to be a point of emphasis," Hendricks said after Thursday's 10-3 loss to the A's at Sloan Park.

Hendricks made his point right away, striking out Oakland leadoff man Dustin Fowler swinging with a curveball that wrapped up a three-pitch at-bat. There were more sprinkled throughout the two-inning start for Hendricks, who created three outs via grounders, induced two flyouts and ended with no runs and two singles surrendered.

For Hendricks, it was a positive first step to the games portion of Spring Training.

"I know where my game needs to be, where my pitches needs to be, how they're working," Hendricks said. "Right now, really, I feel really good with that. Now, it's just showing up every day and staying with it. Staying in those good habits."

Hendricks will continue to lean mostly on his sinker, changeup and fastball, working in his curve when it makes sense. Last year, that was 7.6 percent of the time, which is around what had been typical in previous seasons, too. Out of the chute this spring, though, Hendricks said he wants to test his breaking pitch in different situations and counts as part of his preparation for the campaign ahead.

"Just being able to see it, see where I can use it in spots, working with more confidence," Hendricks said. "You can throw you all you want in bullpens and stuff, but when you get real hitters in real game situations, yeah, I just need to mix it in there more and see what happens with it. ... I'm just trying to work on the shape of it, see where I can use it in different parts of the zone and different counts to hitters.

"So, I felt good with the shape of it today and how it was breaking. So, we'll just build on it from there."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Tyler Chatwood is scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen in Friday's game against the D-backs, but the Cubs will continue to build up his innings like a starting pitcher. Chatwood and lefty Mike Montgomery are the top two depth options behind Chicago's five-man rotation.

"[We'll] let him get his innings in and see where it takes us," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm telling you, man, if we harness this stuff, it is really high-end movement versus righties and lefties. He can help us."

• After being a late arrival to camp due to personal reasons, utility man Ben Zobrist made his Cactus League debut on Thursday against the A's. Outfielder Jason Heyward also returned to the lineup Thursday after tending to a personal matter earlier this week.

• Montgomery is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session during Friday morning's workout. The lefty is building back up after dealing with minor shoulder tightness earlier in camp.

Up next

Left-hander Jose Quintana is scheduled to make his Cactus League for the Cubs on Friday, when the D-backs host Chicago in a 2:10 p.m. CT preseason tilt at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lefty Robbie Ray is slated to start for Arizona.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.