When starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks trots out to the mound for the Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, longtime Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett will be watching closely.
Hendricks was a member of the Indians 2011 roster and Chicago relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. played for the Indians in 2012. Their former short-season Single-A manager is keeping a keen eye on the Cubs and his two former players in their series with the Cleveland Indians.
“It’s been fun to follow those guys in the big leagues,” Hulett said.
Both players were shipped to the Cubs in separate trades after being drafted by the Rangers in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft.
Hendricks, whose 2.13 earned-run average was the best in Major League Baseball this season, carried a mature disposition with him as an eighth round pick out of Dartmouth College.
“Kyle was a very mature player, even back then right out of college,” Hulett said of the Ivy League graduate. “(He) just had a good feel for the game. He really hasn’t changed that much.”
Hendricks’ vast intelligence was apparent from the time he first stepped in the Indians’ clubhouse. But, according to Hulett, his nickname “The Professor,” which has stuck with him throughout his career, had more to do with his cerebral approach to pitching than his overall intelligence.
“Yes, he was an intelligent kid, but he had baseball intelligence,” Hulett said of Hendricks, who had a 1.93 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Indians. “He could read guys in the batter’s box, look at their swings and attack them from there.”
Hendricks was traded to the Cubs along with third baseman Christian Villanueva for right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster at the 2012 trade deadline.
While Hendricks was a proven product from the get-go, the same can’t be said for Edwards, who was packaged to the Cubs with three other players in the Rangers’ trade for Matt Garza in 2013.
“There’s been a lot of change in him,” Hulett said of Edwards, who has a 3.75 earned-run average in 36 appearances this season. “He was really raw at the time, but he had some great stuff.”
Edwards, who went by “C.J.” while with the Indians, came to Spokane as a 48th-round pick out of Mid-Carolina High School in Prosperity, South Carolina. His wiry frame – Hulett said he’s unsure if he weighed over 140 pounds – earned him the nickname “The String Bean Slinger.” He compiled a 2.10 ERA in 10 starts with Spokane in 2012.
The biggest technical change for Edwards throughout his minor league career, was an increase of velocity on his fastball, according to Hulett. While playing for Spokane, his breaking ball was his go-to pitch. Now, he can pepper the zone with a 96-mph fastball.
“Those guys that are diamonds in the rough, once they get the coaching, they develop quickly,” Hulett said.
When Hulett flips on Game 3 on Friday, he will reluctantly root for the Cubs. Hulett was a Cardinals fan while growing up in Springfield, Illinois, and played four years for the Chicago White Sox from 1983 to 1987.
But with Hendricks and Edwards playing on baseball’s biggest stage, presented with a chance to give the Cubs their first title since 1908, Hulett is putting his anti-Cubs background to the side.
“It’s been fun to watch the Cubs because of them,” Hulett said. “It should be interesting to watch them play.”
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