Changeup, K's keep Hendricks in 'good shape'

Cubs righty struck out five over four innings Sunday; likely to make rotation

Changeup, K's keep Hendricks in 'good shape'

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Hendricks is not considered a strikeout pitcher, but the Cubs right-hander's changeup is making hitters look bad this spring.

Hendricks fanned five over four scoreless innings Sunday in a 3-3 tie against the Athletics, giving up one hit and walking one. It was another efficient outing, and it seemed to further secure a spot in the Cubs' rotation.

"I'm not ready to commit one way or another, but he's in pretty good shape," manager Joe Maddon said.

Cubs Spring Training information

The Cubs are stretching out Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Clayton Richard and Travis Wood this spring, and leaving open the possibilty that one of them could squeeze into the rotation. However, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel apparently set, Hendricks has shown no reason to be excluded.

In his three spring outings, Hendricks has given up one run on five hits and struck out 11 over nine innings.

"I'm just trying to get ahead of guys, honestly, and just pitch my game," Hendricks said. "I think it's something early in spring that's just working out. I'm not really thinking about [strikeouts]. I'm just trying to get in that rhythm, in my mechanics, and I felt good today."

The key pitch Sunday was his changeup.

"It's been moving good, working good, and it's one of those things that I lost last year in the middle of the year when I got out of my mechanics," Hendricks said. "I didn't have any depth on it, no angle [last year]. To see the depth and angle on it and the swings and misses is a good sign."

Hendricks credited second baseman Javier Baez, shortstop Munenori Kawasaki and left fielder Kyle Schwarber for solid defensive support. Schwarber, making his first start after missing two days with a sore left knee, crashed into the left field wall to rob Eric Sogard of an extra-base hit in the third.

Schwarber on his defense

"It's nice to have a couple balls hit at me, and go back on one," Schwarber said.

It's been a nice spring for Hendricks, too.

"Part of that has been Joe," Hendricks said of the Cubs manager. "They've shown confidence in me, they stuck with me last year when I was struggling. They've reiterated they have confidence in me and it gives me confidence in return. He trusts me to be myself, he doesn't want me to be somebody I'm not and that feels good. I can go out there and be me and do my thing."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.