CINCINNATI -- When the pitchers at Triple-A Iowa saw that both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were traded, they started to project the openings in the Cubs rotation to see if they matched up. The big league team needed pitchers -- who would it be?
On Wednesday, Dallas Beeler was recalled for his second big league start, and on Thursday, Kyle Hendricks will make his Major League debut.
"There are a bunch of guys who could've done it, which says something about the guys we have down there," Hendricks said Wednesday. "Anybody could've come up here and filled the spot. I'm just happy I got the opportunity."
The right-hander impressed the Cubs in Spring Training and was 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A Iowa. He's developed his four-seam fastball this year and says it's made a difference.
"I usually throw mostly two-seams, but with [Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton] down there, I've been focusing on my four seams to throw with more velocity to guys and it keeps them even more off balance on both sides of the plate," Hendricks said. "It's been a real key for me this year and I'm going to stick with it."
Hendricks wasn't sure he'd get the call because his days didn't align with the openings created by the Fourth of July trade. But in Hendricks' last start for Iowa on Sunday, he was pulled after two innings.
"I was like, 'Wait, what's going on?'" Hendricks said. "Then [Iowa manager Marty] Pevey told me what's going on. I'm just really excited for the opportunity."
He'll have plenty of family and friends at Great American Ball Park for the game, and Hendricks is trying not to look too far ahead. The Cubs have Jake Arrieta, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood in the rotation, and have yet to decide what to do with the openings.
"These guys are coming in, they have a very calm presence about them and that's good -- it's quiet confidence," manager Rick Renteria said. "They know when they go out there and play the game, the game isn't any different. It's still 90 feet to first and 60 feet, 6 inches to the mound. It's not a foreign environment other than the place they're playing."
Hendricks is just preparing for Thursday.
"I hope they give me a real opportunity -- that's always what you want," he said. "All I can focus on is going out there tomorrow and pounding the strike zone and throwing all my pitches and doing the best I can."
Alcantara makes Major League debut vs. Reds
CINCINNATI -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria didn't waste any time getting Arismendy Alcantara in the lineup. The second baseman, called up from Triple-A Iowa while Darwin Barney is on paternity leave, was in the starting lineup Wednesday and batted second.
And he was very excited to be with the big league team. Alcantara went 0-for-4 in the Reds' 4-1 victory, but picked up an assist when he threw out Ramon Santiago, trying to extend a double to a triple, at third base in the second inning.
"It means a lot," Alcantara said before the game. "One of my dreams is to be in the big leagues and I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can. I'm just going to try to do my job. ... If I do good, they can bring me back."
Barney was expected back Friday. He flew to Chicago early Wednesday to be with wife, Lindsay, for the birth of their third child.
"He should be in there," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Alcantara, 22, who was batting .308 with 10 home runs, 24 doubles, 11 triples and 21 stolen bases in 88 games at Iowa. "Hopefully, he's able to enjoy it and be himself. He's been doing very well this season and hopefully he feels comfortable with his teammates here."
Alcantara was in big league camp this spring and benefited from the experience.
"Being around the veteran guys, they can talk to you and give you something and explain it to you better," he said.
Kyle Hendricks, who will make his Major League debut on Thursday in the Cubs' series finale against the Reds, flew with Alcantara from Omaha on Wednesday. Alcantara has played second, shortstop and center field. What was Hendricks' scouting report?
"He can play any of them," Hendricks said. "His arm is so good and he put in a lot of work and it didn't take long for him to look natural out there [in center]. He runs down balls and has great speed. he's definitely a natural out there."
And he's got more power than people might think looking at Alcantara's 5-foot 10-inch, 170-pound frame.
"He's right up there with [Javier] Baez and [Kris] Bryant as far as pop," Hendricks said.
Where would Alcantara like to play?
"Everywhere -- short, second base, outfield, everywhere," he said. "I just want to see my name in the lineup."
Future is now for Cubs pitching prospects
CINCINNATI -- The Trade Deadline doesn't just affect the Major League team but has a ripple effect. With Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel now in the Athletics' rotation after being dealt last Friday, the Cubs have openings for starting pitchers. The future is now for some of the Minor Leaguers.
"For them, [the trade] seems to open up opportunities to get to the big leagues," manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday. "They're excited. Fortunately for us, We have a very well-stocked Minor League system. ... Time soon enough will open the door for a lot of those kids."
Dallas Beeler made his second big league start Wednesday for the Cubs, and Kyle Hendricks was to make his Major League debut on Thursday in the series finale against the Reds. Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada made his first U.S. start on Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader.
It's the first time since 1948 that the Cubs have had three pitchers make their big league debuts in a 13-day span or less. According to Elias, Bob Rush (April 22), Cliff Chambers (April 24) and Dutch McCall (April 27) did so in a six-day span that year.
Hendricks will be the 19th starting pitcher to make his Major League debut for the Cubs in the last 15 seasons, starting in 2000.
The pitchers aren't the only ones. Infielder Arismendy Alcantara got his first big league start Wednesday at second base, subbing for Darwin Barney, who was on paternity leave.
"There are a lot of players down there [at Triple-A Iowa]," Hendricks said. "That lineup we had, it made it real easy as a pitcher. You might give up one or two in the first, but if you keep your team in the game, they're going to score you some runs.
"The bottom line is nobody is really thinking about the big leagues too much," he said. "They're focused on what they have to do down there and what they have to do to get better."
It must be tough to not be impatient.
"I don't know if impatient is the right word," Hendricks said. "It's hard not to think about it. Bottom line, you have to go out there every day and win at Triple-A and if you do what you have to do, it'll take care of itself."
Cubs fans are eager to see third baseman Kris Bryant, who has 30 home runs -- 22 at Double-A Tennessee, eight with Iowa.
"He's definitely the best player I've ever played with," Hendricks said. "The first two or three games he played in, and I was like OK, he's going to need time to adjust a little, but it took two games, and he's just been ripping the cover off the ball. He spreads them out everywhere -- right field, center field, left, it's unbelievable. He's one of the many guys there who can hit."
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.