Kyle Hendricks typically takes a couple months off after a season before he picks up a baseball. There was nothing typical about last year, however, so the leader of the Cubs' rotation altered his offseason program.
With less mileage on his arm during the shortened 2020 season, Hendricks only rested for a couple weeks before resuming throwing every few days. No one really knows yet the toll that the disjointed campaign might have on pitchers' arms this season, but Hendricks feels well-positioned for a return to 162-game normalcy.
"I think I'm ready to take on a full load again," Hendricks said via Zoom on Wednesday. "I know what it's like to go through a full season, so I can lean on that experience."
Hendricks may be envisioning a normal season's workload, but manager David Ross said that he and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy will proceed with caution.
"We've got to be careful with that," Ross said. "I think Kyle is a guy who stays in great shape; he is very durable and we trust in the innings that he can give us. But we're going to be smart. We're going to take the feedback from the player. The performance matters for a lot of these guys. And then the data will give us some information as well as we go throughout the season."
The back of Hendricks' baseball card shows a 2.88 ERA in 81 1/3 innings last season, marking the third-most innings in the Majors. That does not include any innings logged by the right-hander in Spring Training, during the shutdown period or in Summer Camp.
All things considered, Hottovy estimated this offseason that Hendricks' innings total was "closer to 120" for 2020. Looking at Hendricks' career, he logged 139 2/3 innings in '17 and had no issue jumping to 199 frames in '18. In 2016 and '18, the righty topped 200 innings if you include the postseason.
Right now, Hendricks projects to be the No. 1 starter for the Cubs, with Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies behind him. Arms like Trevor Williams, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Kohl Stewart will also be jockeying for jobs. There are question marks with each pitcher, so Hendricks wants to be a source of stability.
"I just want to be there," Hendricks said, "be that consistent force for these guys, take the ball every fifth day and they know what they can get out of me."
And while Ross plans on being cautious with Hendricks' workload, the manager also knows what he can expect.
"He threw a complete game last year on Opening Day," Ross said. "So, I've got a lot of confidence in Kyle."
Hughes, Mowins and Myers join Marquee team
Marquee Sports Network announced Wednesday that Pat Hughes, Beth Mowins and Chris Myers will assist in play-by-play coverage of Cubs games during the 2021 season. The trio will help fill in when Jon "Boog" Sciambi is out of the television booth.
When Mowins calls her first game, she will become the first woman play-by-play announcer for the Cubs in team history. She has served as a broadcaster for ESPN since 1994, calling mostly men's and women's collegiate sports.
"It's an honor and a privilege to work with such a beloved and historic franchise as the Chicago Cubs," Mowins said in a statement. "I am thrilled to be a part of the team at Marquee Sports Network and am looking forward to working alongside some of the best in the business this season."
Hughes, who is the longtime radio play-by-play voice for the Cubs on 670 The Score, is entering his 26th season calling games for the ballclub. Myers has been a broadcaster for more than 30 years with FOX Sports and hosts the show "Chris and Tell" on Marquee.
• Ross noted on Wednesday that the intercostal injury reliever Rowan Wick is currently dealing with is related to the left oblique setback that ended his season in September. There is no timetable for Wick's return as camp opens.
"It was feeling better and then he started throwing. It's just still a little bit uncomfortable," Ross said. "There's just literally zero reason to rush anything right now, and we want that guy to be healthy."
• Marquee Sports Network plans on broadcasting all 14 of the Cubs' home Spring Training games at Sloan Park in Arizona. Chicago begins its Cactus League slate on March 1 against the Padres on the road and opens at home on March 2 against Kansas City.
"As a fan, you fall in love with players. But there's also opportunity in the absence of great players that move on. There's opportunity for the next household name, the next guy up, the next guy that's going to put his stamp on the Cubs and the organization and winning. I don't know who that guy is. We have ideas of who those great players could be, but they have to go out and prove it, and I think that's exciting." -- Ross