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Hendricks taking positives from early starts

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kyle Hendricks is still trying to solidify his mechanics and fine-tune his curveball, taking some suggestions on the latter from new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey. The best part of his outing on Monday against the Rockies was that Hendricks felt his mechanics were off at the beginning of the game, and he was able to correct it.

"At this point, to be able to recognize that and work on making an adjustment and do it, is a positive for me," Hendricks said.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kyle Hendricks is still trying to solidify his mechanics and fine-tune his curveball, taking some suggestions on the latter from new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey. The best part of his outing on Monday against the Rockies was that Hendricks felt his mechanics were off at the beginning of the game, and he was able to correct it.

"At this point, to be able to recognize that and work on making an adjustment and do it, is a positive for me," Hendricks said.

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The right-hander gave up three hits and struck out four over three innings in his second Cactus League start. One of the hits was a two-run homer by Charlie Blackmon in the first.

Hendricks is scheduled to start the second game of the regular season, and can sense a different vibe in Cubs camp.

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"You can see it in their legs already -- there's a lot more life, a lot more energy," he said of the players. "That's a good sign, and that's going to do us wonders starting off the season."

Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ and Ryan Court each hit solo home runs in the Cubs' 5-4 victory over the Rockies. Rizzo connected against Tyler Anderson leading off the third for his second home run this spring.

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Happ had three hits, including a double to start the game and an RBI single. He's now batting .471 this spring, slotted exclusively in the leadoff spot. On Monday, he doubled from the right side, then hit a solo homer from the left side with one out in the fourth.

Jason Heyward has led off twice for the Cubs, and is 1-for-6, while Albert Almora Jr. also has batted first, but remains hitless this spring.

• The Cubs don't have much speed, but they can be good baserunners. Third base coach Brian Butterfield believes that's possible.

"Speed is a good thing to have but it's not the most important," Butterfield said. "The ability to anticipate and be fearless [is more important]."

He said most young players err on the side of caution because they don't want to make a mistake.

"Behind closed doors, if we do run into outs and we're a little overzealous, we can say, 'Slow it down,'" Butterfield said. "You'd rather pull the reins than [have a guy] who you have to keep prodding and pushing."

• Infielder Tommy La Stella has apparently been parking his car in a spot reserved for the Cubs' front office staff. They had enough, and on Monday, someone took La Stella's uniform, so he had to wear khaki pants and a striped polo shirt during the morning drills. The pants were a little snug, and La Stella needed one of the athletic trainers to use his scissors in the crotch area.

"He deserved it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of La Stella's outfit. "He's been stirring it up with the front office a bit intentionally. [La Stella] told me what he was going to do. I thought, it's all Tommy and good for him. I also knew there would be some hell to pay. Today was the day of reckoning."

It's not clear whether Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer took La Stella's clothes. The infielder did look as if he could've fit right into the front office dress code.

Injury updates: Ben Zobrist is expected to play on Tuesday for the first time this spring. Zobrist has been slowed by some back stiffness since he arrived in Arizona in mid-February.

Reliever Pedro Strop, who has been out with a sore left calf, is getting close to pitching in a game.

Up next: Yu Darvish makes his Cubs debut on Tuesday, facing his former team, the Dodgers, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. Darvish was scratched from his first scheduled start because he was feeling ill, but was able to pitch two "innings" in the bullpen that day.

Brandon Morrow, another former Dodger, also is expected to make his Cubs debut on Tuesday. Morrow has been held back because of his extended work last season, having gotten to the World Series.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Hendricks