Given the success of Kyle Hendricks in all three of his minor-league seasons, one and a half of them in the Rangers organization, one and a half with the Cubs after he came over in the Ryan Dempster deal in July 2012, I've been a big proponent of giving him a real shot to make the 2014 Opening Day roster.
I've been joined in that view by the Tribune's Paul Sullivan:
If the Cardinals are the gold standard the Cubs want to emulate, now is as good a time as any to play follow the leader. And that means giving rookie Kyle Hendricks a realistic shot at winning a spot in the starting rotation.
But Sullivan and I aren't the only ones who think this is a good idea. Sullivan quotes Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio:
Bosio said last fall he would lobby for Hendricks in talks with President Theo Epstein, but he knew that would be a long shot. It appears as though Jake Arrieta (favorite if healthy), Chris Rusin, James McDonald or Carlos Villanueva will fill the fifth-starter role, with Hendricks headed back to Iowa. "For me, baseball has no age," Bosio said. "If you can pitch, you can pitch. If you can get guys out, it doesn't matter if you're 20 or 30. But it's having the trust in them, and those guys have the trust in themselves and the trust from the guys they play with. "In the right case, there's no telling what could happen and how deep we can go in this organization if we needed starters. … If we're healthy, which I assume we will be … it's difficult to see him in our rotation. "But there might be a couple of moves made, a couple of injuries … then all of a sudden we may be forced to (use him). But we don't want to rush one of the better pitchers in the organization."
Given that, it would seem as if Hendricks doesn't have a real chance to make the Opening Day rotation. But Arrieta might have had a setback, Rusin has had mixed success at the big-league level, McDonald is coming off an injury and Villanueva showed last year that he's more effective as a reliever.
Sullivan's article says that Hendricks will pitch against Eric Jokisch in an intrasquad game February 26, the day before the official Cactus League season begins. And beyond that, says, Bosio, he should get some time in major-league spring-training games:
"We're going to get a good look at this guy before we send him out," Bosio said. "For selfish reasons, I want to see how he performs against big league hitters, not guys in Double A, A ball or Triple A. It's different. "I think he'll keep his emotions in check. He seems like that kind of guy. His bullpen (sessions) have been pretty special. He knows what he's doing. So let's get him on a big league field against big league hitters and see what he can do."
Hendricks says he's ready:
"It's going to be a blast, facing big league hitters," Hendricks said Friday before the Cubs' opening workout. "That's what you dream about."
Look, I admit Hendricks is a longshot to make the team Opening Day, and the more likely scenario is that he's recalled sometime in midseason, either due to injury, ineffectivenss or trade of one of the guys who do make the Opening Day roster. But sometimes, a guy performs well enough in spring-training games -- which, I admit, aren't played the same way as regular-season games and are sometimes not a realistic gauge -- to break through and make a ballclub and make a difference.
On a team that is likely not going to be very good in 2014, why not?