Rough start of little concern to Hendricks, Maddon

Rough start of little concern to Hendricks, Maddon

CHICAGO -- Young right-hander Kyle Hendricks continues to work himself back into the pound-the-zone strike-thrower he asserted himself as last season.

It's just taking a little longer than he and the club would like.

Hendricks issued three walks and hit a batter over five innings in Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Pirates at Wrigley Field, but he was around the zone and pitched out of trouble enough for both he and Cubs manager Joe Maddon to show little concern going forward.

"I threw pretty well overall, to be honest with you. I had my sinker back, which is the No. 1 key I was working on this week, so I was happy with that," said Hendricks, who struck out six. "They just had a good approach tonight at the plate, honestly. Laid off some good pitches. That fifth inning just too many pitches, too many deep counts."

Hendricks, who entered the game having issued just one walk in 15 2 /3 innings, matched a career high by issuing three. The only other time he walked three batters in a game were in his first two Major League starts.

He opened the game with a six-pitch first inning -- thanks in large part to right fielder Jorge Soler doubling off Pittsburgh's Gregory Polanco at first on a flyout -- but dealt with trouble much of the night.

Soler doubles up Polanco

The worst of it came in a 31-pitch fifth, when he hit a batter, loaded the bases and walked in a run.

"That was a bad walk, obviously," Hendricks said. "I hate giving up bad walks, that's the bad part about it."

Although Hendricks remains winless and his early-season ERA (5.23) is more than double last season's mark (2.46), Maddon can see him progressing.

"We've talked about the peripherals. He's really not pitched all that badly," Maddon said. "I guess a lot of inherited runners have scored against him, and that really makes your numbers look worse. His WHIP is actually really good.

"I think he's throwing the ball well. I think it's a matter of time until it comes together in regard to results, but process-wise, we're really happy with him. He's been fine."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.