- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Studying has never been a problem for Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who has a degree in economics from Dartmouth. The right-hander enjoys baseball’s scouting reports and video work almost as much as being on the mound.

So sure, Hendricks noticed when manager Joe Maddon said he was likely set for the rotation, and then he went right back to work. For everything from making the team to his studious preparation between starts, Hendricks is not one to take anything for granted.

“Spring training is really long and nothing is ever set in stone,” he said before the Cubs practiced on Tuesday. “You never know till you break camp, so I am just going to keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully that’ll stand up in the end.”

Hendricks, a mix of California cool and Ivy League smarts, broke into the majors last year and was a pleasant surprise for the Cubs during the last half of their fifth consecutive losing season. After a so-so debut at Cincinnati before the All-Star break, the 6-foot-3 Newport Beach native quickly established himself as one of the National League’s best rookies.

Hendricks followed his first major league game with six consecutive quality starts, going 5-1 with a sparkling 0.84 ERA over the impressive streak. He finished with a 7-2 record and a 2.46 ERA in 13 starts with the Cubs.

“He’s a pitcher. He’s not up there, just throwing,” said Maddon, who is beginning his first year in Chicago. “He’s not going to try to blow anybody away. He knows what he’s doing. But he’s beyond finesse.”

Hendricks, 25, throws four pitches, including an effective changeup. He doesn’t have a big arm, but works quickly and smartly. He also has good control, walking nine batters in his final 11 starts last year.

One of his best assets is his appetite for all the information that goes along with life in the majors.

“It starts in the video room, I mean they got every at-bat forever on every hitter,” he said, “and then you have advance scouts, you got guys on the coaching staff making scouting reports for you, whereas in the minor leagues, you don’t even have a scouting report. You have to do everything on your own. Having all that information available is definitely the biggest thing for me.”

Hendricks was selected by the Angels out of high school in the 39th round of the 2008 draft, but decided to go to Dartmouth. He played for Big Green for three seasons and then signed with Texas after he was an eighth-round pick in the 2011 draft.

“The kid is a gentleman in every aspect until he takes the mound, and then there’s every attribute that you would want in a kid from a competitive aspect in a Division I level and at the professional level,” Dartmouth coach Bob Whalen said in a phone interview.

While Hendricks credited Whalen with helping him learn when he needs to step off the mound and not work so quickly, Whalen said he arrived at the New Hampshire school with that mound presence.

“He is one of the few kids that can translate that from the way you see him when you meet him to the way he performs athletically,” Whalen said. “He’s always been able to regulate his thought process and his tempo and he just never allowed the game to speed up on him.”

Hendricks was acquired by the Cubs in the 2012 deadline deal that sent Ryan Dempster to the Rangers. He was Chicago’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2013, and then earned his promotion to the majors with a strong start at Triple-A Iowa last season.

Now Hendricks is ticketed for the No. 4 slot in an improved rotation fronted by Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, and he is hoping he can put what he learned last year to good use in his first full season in the majors.

“Every year you learn more about yourself and about your body,” he said. “This offseason, it was no different. I learned more of what I needed and coming into spring training, I’m not as ramped up and as ready to go as I was last year. But again, I hope that’s going to translate in the back end in being stronger and ready in September, hopefully in October.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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