Hendricks picks up where he left off in Cactus League

Starter turns in Cubs' fourth quality start in five games

Hendricks picks up where he left off in Cactus League

PHOENIX -- Maybe it was appropriate for Kyle Hendricks to make his first start of the season in Arizona. After all, the Cubs right-hander had a quiet and effective Spring Training, and Saturday night he just picked up where he left off in Cactus League play.

Hendricks, who began spring not knowing if he had a spot in the rotation, scattered four hits over 6 2/3 innings and got the win as the Cubs topped Zack Greinke and the D-backs, 4-2. It's the fourth quality start by a Chicago starting pitcher in five games, and the fourth win.

"It was just a continuation of Spring Training for him," manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks. "He puts the ball on the ground, he made good pitches all night long. He was really sharp."

Hendricks didn't overpower anyone, just kept the D-backs off balance by following catcher Miguel Montero's game plan and successfully mixing his pitches.

"I heard a lot of comments on the bench that a lot of guys were really having a hard time picking his ball up, whether it was a breaking ball or the sinker," Arizona manager Chip Hale said. "[There was] just a funny spin to it. Sometimes it happens. You just run into a pitcher that doesn't look that overwhelming when you look on video, doesn't look that overwhelming from the stands, but he's hiding the ball and just spotted it. In, out, down. He did a great job. You've got to give him credit."

It's only one start, but it was encouraging for the Cubs to see Hendricks in control. He did finish last season well, throwing 12 shutout innings in his final two starts.

"It wasn't 100 percent sharp," Hendricks said. "My fastball command still can be better, my changeup to righties wasn't great today, but I definitely think I kept it going from spring. My routine stayed the same, I felt good in my bullpen [session]. I was glad to get out there for the first one and feel the same things I was in spring."

If Hendricks can keep up with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, the Cubs rotation will be pretty impressive.

"I don't think there's anything we can't do, honestly," Hendricks said of the team as a whole. "We've got all the pieces here -- we lost [Kyle Schwarber], which is big for us, but at the same time we have plenty of other guys who can step in and fill in. Our staff did a good job first time through and now it's just keep going from here."

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.