Hendricks says Cubs pitchers stayed ready during hiatus
This was the type of low-stress competition usually reserved for spring training.
In the top of the second inning of the Cubs intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, the Blue team loaded the bases with one out, with Anthony Rizzo ready to step in the box. But someone in the dugout decided Kyle Hendricks had thrown enough pitches and waved off the inning.
Without the noise of fans in the stands, jeers from the Blue team dugout could be heard in the press box.
"I put up a zero, so that's what I'm going to take from it," Hendricks said with a laugh. "I wasn't wanting to get off the field there. I'm sure he wasn't for sure either."
So neither side scored in the scrimmage, which consisted of 5 half-innings. Hendricks tossed 3 innings and gave up 5 hits. Yu Darvish pitched 2 frames, allowing a hit and a walk.
Player of the game was catcher Victor Caratini, who lashed two singles off Hendricks. The lone extra-base hit was a line double to left-center field by Javy Baez off Darvish. The other singles were from Jason Heyward, Daniel Descalso and Kris Bryant.
"It was just fun to get back out there," said Hendricks, the lone player made available on a post-scrimmage Zoom call with reporters. "Obviously we do it for the fans and that's such a huge part of the game, having them there and the cheers and the roars and all that. At the end of the day, at least we get to play baseball. We're out here with all our friends."
The early outing provided an example of how Hendricks was able to stay in pitching shape during the hiatus. He spent most of the time off in Arizona and visited the Cubs' training facility as much as he was allowed.
"We had catchers, a few pitchers, a few hitters -- throughout the whole quarantine, we were going in there," Hendricks said. "I pretty much kept up on everything throwing-wise, working out, throwing bullpens, a couple of live BP situations. So I kept my pitch count up and I was good to get 45-50 pitches under my belt today.
"A lot of guys threw a lot throughout the quarantine. I feel really good where I'm at as far as schedule-wise. For the most part as a group, we're locked in and ready to go."
Another scrimmage is planned for Sunday. Earlier in the day, manager David Ross talked about the unusual circumstance of waking up on the Fourth of July and heading for a summer camp session instead of a midseason game.
"It's definitely strange," Ross said. "This is one of those days that scream America's Pastime. It's a different and unique day, but I'm trying to look at the positives. We're going to have our first scrimmage and it's a nice hot day in Chicago on the Fourth of July."
All 17 position players listed on the Cubs' summer camp roster participated. So while some teams are reporting a few players testing positive for COVID-19, the Cubs appear to be at full health, although Ross speaks carefully when asked to confirm whether everyone is healthy enough to participate in camp.
"Guys are hungry, what I see out there running around, it's exciting," Ross said. "I definitely had a sense of energy (during Friday's initial workout). We've all been cooped up for a while."
Before the scrimmage, Heyward was asked if the Cubs have an advantage in the 60-game season since their main nucleus of players hasn't changed in a few years.
"I think there are certain advantages to most of us playing together for a number of years," he said. "I've seen us do a lot of great things in short amounts of time when our backs are against the wall. So I'm looking forward to that challenge and having fun with this group."
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