Cubs manager David Ross met Kyle Hendricks on the mound. The right-hander was just over his pitch limit, but he was only an out away from a complete game shutout.
Hendricks didn't know what to expect as Ross strode up the bump.
"I just wanted to check his pulse, let him know that was his last hitter," Ross said Friday, after the Cubs' 3-0 Opening Day win against the Brewers.
Ross' managerial debut had been a long time coming. The Cubs named him manager last October. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Ross' job became about leading his team through an unprecedented four months, not quite what he'd had in mind when he took the job. The Cubs' win Friday gave the buildup a fairytale ending.
"I'm excited," Ross said before Friday's game. "I'm almost relieved. There was a start (to summer camp) three weeks ago that you didn't know how this thing was going to go. And it really has been a daily process and a lot of conversations in between that have nothing to do with baseball."
On Friday, Ross' No. 3 jersey was hanging in his locker when he walked into his manager's office. The same number he wore as a Cubs player.
Chills went down his spine.
"It was a really neat moment," Ross said.
Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks made Ross' job easy for the first eight innings. His pitch limit was about 100, and once he threw an eight-pitch first inning and five-pitch seventh, it was clear that he was going to remain on the mound deep into the game.
In the final inning, the spotlight fell on Ross for the first time. Orlando Arcia, who had all three of the Brewers' hits Friday, led off the ninth with a single to left field. But Hendricks got ground ball force outs from the next two batters, Eric Sogard and Christian Yelich.
Hendricks' last pitch to Yelich was his 102nd of the night. Ross headed toward the mound.
"I can't say enough about Rossy there," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "First game with that hard of a decision as a manager could not be easy for him."
The Cubs in the dugout joked that the only reason Ross was going out to the mound was to get a cheer.
"So, they gave it to me on the way back," Ross said.
Hendricks was staying in. One more batter? No problem. Hendricks only needed one pitch. Milwaukee's Keston Hiura hit a ground ball to shortstop Javier Báez.
"I know we're supposed to socially distance, but he came in for the hug," Ross said of Hendricks, "and I squeezed the heck out of him."
When Ross named Hendricks the Cubs Opening Day starter last week, the new manager imagined what it would be like for the Cubs to open the season with a win. For Hendricks' name to be on Ross' first W as a manager.
"It's somebody that is a friend," Ross said. "A guy that I've seen grow. Somebody that I'm close with just in terms of how much I like him. He's the ideal player you want."
Hendricks' outing Friday was the first Opening Day start of his career, and with it he became the first Cub in 46 years to throw a complete game shutout on Opening Day. But Hendricks said what meant the most to him was claiming the win for Ross.
"I love that guy," Hendricks said. "And we love playing for him. We've been waiting for this moment."
Cubs' David Ross begins his managerial career with a tough decision, win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago