Kyle Hendricks to start on opening day for Chicago Cubs

Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs throws to a Washington Nationals batter in the second inning at Nationals Park on September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

It was quite a moment for Kyle Hendricks and David Ross.

Of course, the affable Ross was a bit more excited than the reserved Hendricks.

Hendricks was selected by Ross to start on opening day for the Chicago Cubs, getting the nod over Yu Darvish. Ross, who is beginning his first year as a major league manager, finalized the decision on Thursday, first telling his starting pitchers in a meeting before privately congratulating Hendricks on the accomplishment.

“You know him. He’s nonchalant. No big deal,” a chuckling Ross said. “It may have been a bigger deal to me to tell him than it was for him to hear the news.”

Chicago begins the season on July 24 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Ross said Darvish will start the second game, but he did not reveal how the rest of his rotation will line up.

“I’m just excited to get back out on the field with the boys, with my teammates, and just having them start to count,” Hendricks said.

While some of baseball’s most electric arms will start the first game, the 30-year-old Hendricks relies more on precision and control. He is known for his studious approach with scouting reports and his poker face out on the mound, where his expression reveals nothing about how he feels about his outing.

It’s an unusual style in baseball’s velocity era, but there’s no arguing with Hendricks’ results.

“I love the fact that he does something at the highest level and he just does it differently than other people in the game,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “When you talk to other people in the game, I think everyone, they just admire him. I think he’s incredibly difficult to hit.”

Hendricks has been one of Chicago’s most consistent pitchers since his major league debut in 2014. The right-hander, acquired in the July 2012 trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas, is 63-43 with a 3.14 ERA in 163 games over six seasons.

It’s the first opening-day start for Hendricks, who went 11-10 with a 3.46 ERA in 30 starts last season.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work, not only this past offseason, but during the time off quarantine, changing my routine workout-wise so I feel stronger than ever before,” Hendricks said. “I want to be that guy for my team, just to be out there, take the ball every fifth day and go deep, go deep in games and eat up innings.”

Darvish also was considered for opening day. The Japanese right-hander finished strong last year, compiling a 2.76 ERA and striking out 118 in 81 2/3 innings over his final 13 starts.

Jon Lester and Tyler Chatwood will follow Darvish in the rotation, but the order is still up in the air. The fifth starter is also a question mark after José Quintana had surgery July 2 to repair nerve damage in his pitching thumb.

The 31-year-old Quintana got his stitches out Wednesday and began his flat-ground throwing progression Thursday.

“Things seems to feel good for him today at 60 feet, I talked to him,” Ross said. “There’s still a pretty big scar on there. He said the feeling was good. He could press on the area and had good sensation.”

Quintana isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season. Alec Mills could begin the year in the rotation after he had a 2.75 ERA in four starts and nine appearances in 2019.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo also tested his balky back Thursday during batting practice. Rizzo has some inflammation in his ribs on his left side that is causing back spasms.

Rizzo said Wednesday he doesn’t think he will need to begin the year on the injured list.

“We’ll continue to communicate and make sure he’s feeling good and feel like he can do what needs to be done on the field and if not, we’ll take our time with it,” Ross said Thursday.

Notes: The Cubs added catcher Jose Lobaton and pitchers Tyson Miller and Cory Abbott to their 60-player pool. They are going to work at the team’s camp in South Bend, Indiana.