Kyle Hendricks to start on opening day for Chicago Cubs

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Chicago Cubs manager David Ross selected Kyle Hendricks to start on opening day last season, and it worked out quite well.

He sees no reason to make a change this year.

Ross announced Tuesday that Hendricks will get the ball when the Cubs begin the season against Pittsburgh on April 1 at Wrigley Field. The right-hander tossed a three-hitter in a 3-0 victory over Milwaukee on opening day last summer.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent,” Ross said. “I feel like Kyle, his resume, his leadership, his poise, all that goes into being the opening-day starter, just the extra, kind of, pomp and circumstance that goes with opening day, especially this coming year as well, every arrow points to Kyle.”

Ross said he wasn’t ready to announce the order for the rest of his starting pitchers. Chicago also has Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Shelby Miller are in the mix for the last two spots.

But there is no question about the leader of the rotation, especially after the Cubs traded Yu Darvish to San Diego in December.

The 31-year-old Hendricks, known for his precision, control and professor-like demeanor, is making his second opening-day start. He went 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 starts during the pandemic-shortened season, helping Chicago win the NL Central.

“I just try and be the same guy I’ve always been,” Hendricks said. “I want the guys to be able to trust what they’re going to get out of me.”

The opener against the Pirates will be the first game at Wrigley with a crowd since Sept. 22, 2019. The Cubs have been cleared for as many as 8,274 fans per game at the start of the season.

“To be able to have them and that energy they bring every single day, it’s going to be so much fun,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks has been a steady presence for Chicago since his big league debut in 2014. The Dartmouth graduate is 69-48 with a 3.12 ERA in 175 career games. He had his best year in 2016, going 16-8 with a major league-low 2.13 ERA.

Hendricks, an eighth-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, was acquired by Chicago in the July 2012 trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas.

“Being that guy that’s consistently taking the ball on the fifth day, going deep into a ballgame and giving my team a chance to win. At the end of the day, that’s the guy I’m always trying to be,” he said.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.