Tale of Two Prospects
Thursday night I invited myself to the Triple A debut of Kyle Hendricks. He was neither exciting nor disappointing. He is a pair of blue jeans, not a tuxedo. He is a home cooked meal, not a night on the town. He is someone we could get used to.
The highly touted are said to have electric stuff and mound presence. Hendricks’ repertoire is manually operated and he is not imposing. Maybe it works to his advantage that he strikes no fear. Subconsciously, maybe hitters’ guards come down and, next thing they know, they’ve been TKO’d by the middleweight standing opposite them.
Hendricks is things like workmanlike, efficient and methodical. Unlike so many with perhaps livelier arms he appears in command of his arsenal and to pitch with a plan.
Thursday night he was the 18th man to bat in the game and the first to reach base when he drew a walk and later scored the game’s first run. He almost robotically retired the first 12 Fresno hitters before a hit, a Mike Olt error and a barely nicked batsman resulted in the only unearned blemish against him in the run column.
As an aside, Hendricks’ opposite number, the aptly named Mitch Lively, threw a quality start in defeat, and went about his business more a la Mark Fidrych than Kyle Hendricks. Most of the time he threw from what amounted to a stretch whereby, as he came set he’d pull his hands around behind his hip as though keeping the ball away from someone trying to grab it from him. But every once in a while he’d launch into a full-blown, old school windmill windup, rearing back with both arms sometimes once, sometimes twice or more before coming home. He was funner than Hendricks to watch but, as mentioned, he was also the losing pitcher when all was said and done.
Hendricks might last, like a good pair of boots.
And then there’s Jake Arrieta.
He’s listed only an inch taller than Hendricks but, pitching the game right after him, he seems bigger, maybe because he’s heavier; stouter through the buns and thighs. On top of that he throws noticeably harder. Hendricks touched the low 90’s; Arrieta sits at 94/95.
Where Hendricks looks and feels dependable, if unspectacular, just about anything might happen with Arrieta and just about everything has. In his two best I-Cub starts combined he’s thrown 11 innings, allowing five hits, one run and fanning 20. In his three poorest, including last night, the totals are 12, 22, 13 (nine earned) and nine.
He breezed through the first last night with two swinging strikeouts. But he was gone before he retired anyone in the top of the 4th having allowed six hits, all singles, and walking as many (three) as he’d whiffed. Nobody hit anything hard off of him, he just stopped getting people out. He walked the pitcher leading off an inning, for chrissakes. How I hate when that happens. Kyle Hendricks would never do such a thing!
Arrieta reminds you of the old axiom about the kid with the million dollar arm and the ten cent head. So we’ll see about him. If he pans out the Feldman deal really starts to glow. The upside is way high. The downside is way low. Somewhere in between, steadily, is Hendricks.
Two asides from last night’s action: Denny McClain was on hand for some reason and they mingled him in with all of the birthday kids and civic hotshots tossing ceremonial first pitches. Ye gods, man! The poor old bastard, looking fat and mottled, wobbled out to the mound, drew in on the grass, and lollipopped one that barely managed to cover the remaining distance to the plate on the fly. Anyone there not old enough to remember when he was racking up 30 wins and 350+ innings per season must have had a hard time believing that this broken down shell was ever capable of such things.
The other thing I noticed as the players took the field and came to attention for the anthem was that the I-Cub outfielders numbered 2-5-3 from left to right. When’s the last time you saw a team deploy an all-single digited outfield? Struck me as unusual...