MESA, Ariz. -- Sunday's game was much better timing-wise for Kyle Hendricks' parents. They didn't have to drive 11 hours in one day to see the right-hander pitch.
John and Ann Marie Hendricks were among the record crowd of 14,770 at Cubs Park to watch Kyle start in the Cubs' 10-8 win over the Brewers. They arrived Saturday. If Hendricks was pitching on a weekday, his father would've left their Newport Beach, Calif., home around 4 a.m. for the 5 1/2-hour drive. The Hendricks don't want to disrupt Kyle's routine, so Ann Marie doesn't call her son before a game. They will treat him to dinner after, and then get in the car for the return trip to California.
"We give hugs and kisses and get back on the road so we can go to work in the morning," Ann Marie said.
It's hard to miss Kyle's mother. She's the one wearing the dangling Cubs earrings, a Cubs jersey and her lucky Cubs necklace made of Hawaiian nuts.
His success has more to do with his maturity as a pitcher than paraphernalia. Last season, Hendricks was a combined 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA in 27 Minor League starts at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. This is his first big league Spring Training, but he looks as if he belongs.
"He's intelligent, and I think he has a real good feel for himself, and he understands what he has to do to be successful and his routine and his plans are all very, very good," said Derek Johnson, the Cubs' Minor League pitching coordinator. "He knows he has to stay poised with his stuff. I think he's more rattled now, and you'd never know it. That's the unique part of it. He's in big league camp, a little bit nervous, and you'd never know."
The question, though, is whether Hendricks is ready for the big leagues.
"He's a guy who, over his career and as we've seen, he's a pitcher," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He can really dominate the zone. He tries to work both sides of the plate. ... When we saw him in the [intrasquad] game, he was doing exactly what he does -- he stays down in the zone, hits both sides of the plate, mixes his pitches well. That's the same thing he'll have to do at the Major League level. Is it possible for him to do that? Absolutely."
Johnson feels the same way.
"I think he understands what he has to do to get hitters out," Johnson said. "He pays attention to what they're trying to do against him. He understands situations. It's about him being able to take that from Double-A to Triple-A, and then Triple-A to the big leagues, if that's the case. I feel like he will."
Hendricks struck out four on Sunday, but he also walked two and gave up three hits in three innings in his second Cactus League start. He felt better able to control the tempo of the game. What does he need to do to take that next step to the big leagues?
"As far as during Spring Training, I'm a lot further along than I have been in the past, so I'm happy with that," Hendricks said. "My fastball command is good, my changeup was good today, and my curveball, I threw some good ones. I just have to get on the mound and get more consistent and I'll be a lot better."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.