Kyle Hendricks did it again.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t the complete game shutout we saw on Opening Day in 2020.
But for the second time in three seasons, Hendricks helped the Cubs start off on the right foot with a good performance against the Brewers at Wrigley Field in the season opener.
Not to mention both starts followed a strange set of circumstances: the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 and an abbreviated spring training this year after a lockout.
“Kyle, phenomenal performance as usual,” manager David Ross said. “Steady, gets out of jams early, makes pitches, knows how to navigate a lineup really well. That's why we put him first.”
Hendricks held Milwaukee to one run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out seven.
RELATED: Hoyer on '22 expectations: 'Good vibe' around Cubs
Pitchers’ workloads are a concern across baseball following the lockout. Hendricks, who was ahead of many pitchers during spring training, threw 83 pitches on the day.
Said Ross: “We're trying to balance — it's so weird — winning the ballgame and letting guys still get stretched out each time and get to kind of a number that you feel comfortable with and not shortening them up.”
Hendricks said he was “pretty good at being aggressive setting the tone,” establishing his fastball and allowing his changeup to play off it.
He generated 13 swing-and-misses on his changeup.
“His stuff is up-tick, as far as the numbers go and the data goes,” Ross said. “His stuff is better than it's ever been.
“His curveball is spinning as good as it's spun, same with the changeup, the movement, the way he’s locating the fastball up. I think the key to him, and you saw a lot today, is just continuing to pitch his game and hone in and not get in a hurry.
"Vintage Kyle to me."
It was an important outing for Hendricks, who’s coming off the worst season of his career and has historically struggled in the first month of the season.
“It was definitely important,” he said. “I just wanted to really keep the focus on execution. Pitch to pitch, working one pitch at a time and executing one after another. I did pretty good overall with that.
“There were certain points where I lost it here and there, but I was able to work on it all spring, felt good about my fastball command coming in. To be able to translate that to now, it feels really good.”