Liam Johnson Hendriks
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 190 lb.
- High School Sacred Heart College (Sorrento)
- Debut September 6, 2011
Liam Hendriks was a top Australian prospect entering 2008 and made his major league debut three years later.
Hendriks was signed by international scouting coordinator Howard Norsetter for the Minnesota Twins shortly after his 18th birthday and debuted in the minors with the 2007 GCL Twins. He went 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA, struck out 52 in 44 innings and walked 11. He made his Claxton Shield debut in 2008 and went 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA, finishing third in ERA and tying Tim Cox and Mark Kelly for the most wins. He struck out 25 to tie Kelly for the lead. He was added to the Australian national team for the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament and was arguably their top hurler, allowing one unearned run in five innings. He allowed two hits and a walk while fanning six. The rest of the staff was less successful (a 5.34 team ERA) and Australia failed to qualify for the Beijing Games.
Hendriks had back surgery that prevented him from pitching in the minors in 2008, but he made Australia's roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The youngest Australian player in the Classic, he was 7th among their 13 pitchers in ERA despite having an ERA over 9; Australia played their games in high-scoring Foro Sol Stadium. Hendriks tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a 17-7 win over host Mexico. In his second outing, he replaced Brendan Wise in the 4th inning against Mexico, trailing 5-0 and with two aboard. He gave up a single to Augie Ojeda and a RBI ground-out to Jerry Hairston Jr.. Edgar Gonzalez singled home a run. Paul Mildren relieved and let both inherited runners score.
Hendriks made his major league debut late in the 2011 season, going 0-2, 6.17 in 4 starts. In 2012, he shuffled a number of times between AAA Rochester and the Twins' starting rotation. However, his first major league victory proved to be elusive. In a particularly heart-breaking loss on August 27th, he matched the great Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners pitch for pitch for seven innings, only to give up a solo homer to Eric Thames in the 8th. It was the only run of the game, and the complete game loss gave him a record of 0-7, 6.02 in 10 starts. He finally got his first win on September 19th, 6-4 over the Cleveland Indians, but his was his lone W of the year. He ended the season at 1-8, 5.59 in 16 starts. 2013 was more of the same, as he was 1-3, 6.85 in 10 games for the Twins. He also had a losing record in the minors, finishing the year 4-8, 4.67 in 16 starts at Rochester.
Liam signed with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2014 season and began the season back in AAA, this time with the Buffalo Bisons. He was 5-0, 1.48 after 9 appearances when he got the call to Toronto, replacing Esmil Rogers, who was released. This time, he was able to enter the win column quickly, as he was a winner in his first start on May 23rd, 3-2 over the Oakland A's. He explained his recent turnaround by a deliberate attempt to be more aggressive and challenge hitters more than he had in the past. After a couple more shuttles between Buffalo and Toronto, his record was at 8-1, 2.33 in AAA, where he was a mid-season All-Star, and 1-0, 6.08 in three starts for the Blue Jays when he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on July 28th. He and C Erik Kratz headed to the Royals in return for 3B Danny Valencia. he made 6 appearances for the Royals, including 3 starts, and went 0-2, 4.66 in 19 1/3 innings. He was not on the team's postseason roster, and after the Royals lost the 2014 World Series, he was designated for assignment and traded back to Toronto on October 30th, in return for minor league catcher Santiago Nessy.
Hendriks had his best season for the Blue Jays in 2015, making 58 appearances in relief with a record of 5-0 and a 2.92 ERA. In 64 2/3 innings, he struck out 71 and walked only 11. He pitched only a third of an inning in the ALDS, but added 4 2/3 innings in two outings in the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits. On November 20th, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in return for P Jesse Chavez. His first season with the A's in 2016 was nothing special, as he went 0-4, 3.76 in 53 games as a middle reliever. In 2017, he was one of the busiest relievers in the majors, making 70 appearances, and while he struck out 78 batters in 64 innings, the rest of his numbers were unremarkable, with a 4-2 record, no saves and an ERA of 4.22. In 2018, he missed part of the season with an injury that limited him to 25 games and 24 innings. Towards the end of the year, he found a role as the team's designated "opener", being used as the starting pitcher in 8 bullpen games. He went 0-1, 4.13, and the Athletics made the postseason as one of two wild card teams in the American League. In the Wild Card Game played against the New York Yankees on October 3rd, the Athletics made the controversial decision of going with a bullpen game, and Hendriks was tabbed as the starter. However, the strategy did not work, as Liam allowed 2 runs in the 1st inning before recording a walk, on a walk to leadoff batter Andrew McCutchen followed by a two-run homer by Aaron Judge. The Yankees never surrendered that early lead, winning the game, 7-2, and Hendriks was charged with the loss.
In 2019, Hendriks became a completely different pitcher, as he decided to change his approach and simply attack the strike zone relentlessly with fastballs. It worked for him as he suddenly became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, being selected to play in the All-Star Game for the first time. He became Oakland's closer, saving 25 games (he had registered one save in 8 major league seasons entering the year), and posting an ERA of 1.80 in 75 games. He made another couple of starts as an opener, both in May, and did not record his first save until his 35th appearance on June 22nd, but from that point forward he was manager Bob Melvin's main man in the bullpen and there was no more using him in experimental roles. In 85 innings, he allowed just 61 hits and 21 walks, while striking out a whopping 124 batters. He pitched in the postseason again, against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Game on October 2nd. He pitched the top of the 9th with the A's trailing 5-1 and retired all three batters he faced, but his teammates were unable to mount an improbable comeback in the bottom of the innings and the A's were once again eliminated in just one game.
In 2020, Hendriks was the A's closer from the (delayed) start of the season and was great from one end of the year to the other, going 3-1, 1.78 in 24 games, with 14 saves. He again posted more than twice as many strikeouts as hits, with 37 Ks (and just 3 walks) in 25 1/3 innings, against just 14 hits. He was named the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award as the best relief pitcher in the American League. In the postseason, he made two appearances in the Wild Card Series against the Chicago White Sox, both of them in must-win games. In Game 2, he came in in the 8th with the A's holding a 5-0 lead, but he gave a two-run homer that inning (one of the runs was charged to starter Chris Bassitt) after allowing just one the entire regular season and then in the 9th, he had to be bailed out by Jake Diekman after loading the bases with two outs; Diekman forced in a run with a walk but was able to close out the win. It seemed that Hendriks would be unavailable for the deciding Game 3 on October 1st, having needed a season-high 49 pitches in Game 2, but he came back with a very impressive outing. He was his team's 8th pitcher when he pitched the top of the 9th with a 6-4 lead. After walking lead-off man James McCann, he got down to business, striking out the next three batters - Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Nomar Mazara - to save the game and move Oakland to the next round. In the Division Series against the Houston Astros, he made only one appearance, but it was another great one as he pitched 3 innings in Game 3, allowing just one hit and striking out 4, to receive credit for a 9-7 win. However, it was the A's only win of the series, which they lost in four games. He became a free agent after the season.
On January 11, 2021, news emerged that Hendriks had reached a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox, subject to official confirmation. The agreement was reportedly for three years with an option year, with $54 million guaranteed, and the option set at $15 million. The White Sox had been one of the most active teams during a winter characterized by few deals, having earlier acquired P Lance Lynn and OF Adam Eaton in separate moves. He went 8-3, 2.54 in 69 games and led the American League with 38 saves that season. He was an All-Star for the second time and repeated as winner of the Mariano Rivera Award. The White Sox made it to the postseason and he made 3 appearances in the Division Series against the Houston Astros. He pitched a scoreless inning in both Game 2 and Game 3, but did not figure in the decision in either case, then in Game 4 on October 12th, he was brought in for the 9th inning with the White Sox already trailing 7-1 and on the brink of elimination. As is the case with many closers, pitching in a situation so different from his different role did not work, as he ended up giving three more runs in his one inning, all on a home run by José Altuve. In 2022, he had another good season as the team's closer, returning to the All-Star Game for the third time as he went 4-4, 2.81 in 58 games, with 37 saves (second in the AL behind Emmanuel Clase. However, the Sox underperformed as a team and finished out of the postseason picture.
There was some speculation after the 2022 season that the White Sox may have been willing to trade him in return for the right package, but nothing came of it. Then on January 8, 2023, he announced on his social media account that he had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer that is usually treatable. He added that he would be starting therapy immediately. He was able to join the team for the start of spring training as he kept up his training regimen even while undergoing treatment, although it was not clear when he would be able to actually play for the Sox again. While he had to miss all of spring training and the the start of the season, he had some good news on April 20th, announcing that he was now in remission and cancer-free. He made his first pitching appearance of the season with the AAA Charlotte Knights on May 5th and was activated by the White Sox on May 29th. His first game with the Sox came the same day, giving up a pair of runs in the 8th inning of a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels and was preceded by a huge ovation by the crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field. He recorded his first win on June 4th, when Jake Burger hit a walk-off grand slam in the 9th to give the Sox a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers; Liam had pitched the top of the inning, retiring the Tigers in order. Of course, this came on National Cancer Survivors Day. He went 2-0, 5.40 in 5 games and was named the winner of the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the American League at the end of the season and also received the Tony Conigliaro Award.
- 3-time AL All-Star (2019, 2021 & 2022)
- 2-time Mariano Rivera Award Winner (2020 & 2021)
- 2023 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
- AL Saves Leader (2021)
- 30 Saves Seasons: 2 (2021 & 2022)
- David Adler: "How Hendriks became the top FA reliever", mlb.com, November 20, 2020. 
- Michael Avallone: "Cancer-free Hendriks makes 1st Minor League rehab appearance", mlb.com, May 5, 2023. 
- Thomas Harrigan: "Hendriks wins 2023 Tony Conigliaro Award", mlb.com, November 29, 2023. 
- Dawn Klemish: "Hendriks returning to White Sox after defeating cancer", mlb.com, May 28, 2023. 
- Scott Merkin: "Hendriks to begin treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma", mlb.com, January 8, 2023. 
- Scott Merkin: "White Sox express love, admiration for Hendriks: It's business as usual during Spring Training for All-Star closer as he deals with cancer", mlb.com, February 18, 2023. 
- Scott Merkin: "'Liam! Liam!' Hendriks welcomed back to mound with thundering ovation", mlb.com, May 30, 2023. 
- Matt Monagan: "Building Legos and beating cancer: The Liam Hendriks comeback", mlb.com, June 15, 2023. 
- Brian Murphy and Scott Merkin: "Hendriks announces he is in remission: 'It's official. I'm cancer free'", mlb.com, April 20, 2023. 
- Brian Murphy: "Hendriks, Bellinger win Comeback Player of the Year Awards", mlb.com, November 28, 2023. 
- Jason Owens: "White Sox closer Liam Hendriks diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma", Yahoo! Sports, January 8, 2023. 
- Do-Hyoung Park: "Hendriks, White Sox agree to deal (source)", mlb.com, January 12, 2021.