Hendricks seeking 'balance' amid slow start

Hendricks seeking 'balance' amid slow start

CHICAGO -- Kyle Hendricks is a slow starter, and he knows that. But it doesn't make it any easier for the Cubs' right-hander to deal with how his 2017 season is going so far.

Hendricks walked four, matching a career-high, and lasted five innings in the Cubs' 7-4 come-from-behind win over the Brewers on Wednesday. The Major League ERA leader last year, Hendricks has a 6.19 ERA in three starts.

"The style of pitcher he is and what he throws, it's all there," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's not injured, he feels good. He threw one 86 mile-an-hour fastball right by [Eric] Thames. When he gets back to 87, 88 [mph], you'll see a greater separation between the fastball and the changeup. Right now, there's not a dramatic separation between the two pitches, and that's where the disconnect is for him now. I'm fully confident he'll get an uptick in velocity back."

Hendricks isn't going to overpower hitters with his pitches -- he relies on precise location. He said his mechanics have been a little off, and he's been throwing a lot between starts.

"I have to find the right balance now," Hendricks said. "I don't feel strong out there so I have to get my arm strength so I feel I can step on it and get the velocity back."

That doesn't mean Cubs fans will see him firing 96-mph fastballs. What it will hopefully result in is fewer walks. Hendricks even walked Brewers pitcher Tommy Milone in the fourth.

"The walks were just awful," Hendricks said. "I definitely have to make some adjustments, get ahead in the count. I'm not pitching deep in games, and getting a lot of long counts. I've got a lot of work to do."

At one point, Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello was seen talking to Hendricks on the bench between innings.

"We went in with one game plan, and we noticed they were sitting on a few of the things we were trying to do," Hendricks said. "I didn't realize it right away. By the time he came over to me, we could talk about it and find out where we wanted to go with the game plan. I got better contact in the later innings. I still need to find that groove and lock it in."

Hendricks had given up one homer over 23 innings in four starts in April last year, and four in 11 starts in his career to the Brewers. Milwaukee must have figured something out because the Brewers hit two homers off the right-hander on April 8, and another pair on Wednesday.

It's early. Last season, Hendricks was 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA in four April starts.

"That's always been my M.O., being a slow starter," Hendricks said. "I felt good in spring, and it just hasn't transitioned yet. Staying with the process, I know what I have to do."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.