Hendricks eager to get Cubs' season started

Righty allows two runs on five hits over four innings, strikes out five vs. D-backs

Hendricks eager to get Cubs' season started

MESA, Ariz. -- In two weeks, the Cubs will break camp, and Kyle Hendricks said the players are eager to start the season and defend their World Series championship.

"We're feeling the itch, we know that," Hendricks said after his third spring start in Wednesday's 7-3 loss to the D-backs. "We know it's getting close. It feels like we're ready to go."

The "itch" comment probably won't be on any of manager Joe Maddon's motivational T-shirts.

"Last year, there was a ton of talk about embracing the target, all the expectations that were on us," said Hendricks, who allowed two runs on five hits while striking out five over four innings. "This year, there hasn't been so much of that, but there's been a different sense of urgency. It's kind of been among the guys themselves. Inside this clubhouse, you can see guys getting after it, pushing each other. Everybody's where they need to be with two weeks left."

The Major League ERA leader last season, Hendricks has been constantly reminded of the Cubs' championship.

"Today, going to throw in spring games, and they announce your name and the whole crowd erupts because of the World Series -- that wasn't happening last year," he said. "It's little things like that, they make me notice. There's something every day. It's still changing, I'm still getting used to that part of it."

Maybe in his next outing, he'll get a chance to hit.

"We've been hitting on the field, hitting off [pitching coach Chris Bosio] -- the pitching machine that's 'Bos,'" Hendricks said. "It'll be nice to see something over 90 [mph]."

Worth noting
John Andreoli returned to Cubs camp after playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic with a few souvenirs, some new friends and a possible trip to Italy in the future.

"It was an unbelievable opportunity and great experience and I had so much fun," Andreoli said Wednesday. "Those are guys I will definitely keep in contact with for the rest of my life. We were actually talking about maybe planning a trip to Italy, which would be a lot of fun, too."

Andreoli's solo homer

He picked up a little bit of the language but admits he's not fluent. The experience was worth it. Andreoli said a few players talked about how the World Baseball Classic felt like the Major Leagues and was even a little more intense.

"If you lose one game [in the Classic], you could be in trouble," Andreoli said. "Every pitch, every out was huge. It was definitely a great experience and should help me going forward in my career."

He did not know it was Italy manager Marco Mazzieri's last games. Mazzieri said he was retiring from the event.

"I'm trying to convince him to go one more time," Andreoli said. "Hopefully, we can pull him out of retirement in four years. Marco was unbelievable. I really enjoyed playing for him. Hopefully, he gives it one more go-round."

Jon Lester will start in a Minor League game at 10:30 a.m. MST on Thursday at the Cubs' complex rather than pitch in their Cactus League game. Jake Arrieta will start in a Minor League game Friday at the Cubs' complex, beginning at 1 p.m. MST.

John Lackey will start on Saturday in an exhibition game against Team Japan at Sloan Park. It's part of split-squad games that day, with Jake Buchanan starting against the Brewers in Maryvale. Buchanan has a nice bruise on the upper part of his right shoulder after being hit by a comebacker in his last outing Monday.

• Cubs reliever Hector Rondon took the loss in his first outing for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. Rondon served up home runs to Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer in the eighth inning in Team USA's 4-2 win in San Diego.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.