Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Liam Hendriks Time In Chicago Has Officially Come To An End

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Former White Sox right-hander, Liam Hendriks has found a new home in the American League. Hendriks has agreed to a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox worth $10 in guaranteed money with performance bonuses added, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports. The deal includes a mutual option for the 2026 season. Hendriks is reportedly already in Florida at the Red Sox Spring Training facility.

Hendriks spent two seasons as the White Sox closer until he began treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the 2023 offseason. The 35-year-old announced he was cancer-free in April, just two months after he had revealed his initial diagnosis in January. On May 29th he made an emotional return to the mound and received a standing ovation in front of a raucous home crowd. 

His amazing comeback story was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing 2023 season for the White Sox. It was also a testament to how tough Hendriks is. The Perth, Australia native admitted he had been pitching with a partial UCL tear in his right arm for the last 15 years. 

After allowing three runs in his season debut, Hendriks went 2-0 record and recorded a save with three strikeouts in his last four appearances. During that stretch, he allowed just one hit. His first win of the season came on June 4th, which is National Cancer Survivors Day in the United States. His final appearance in a White Sox uniform before being placed on the IL was during the White Sox walkoff win over Miami on June 6 when he fired a 1-2-3 scoreless ninth inning. 

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Unfortunately, the feel-good story was cut short after five appearances when elbow inflammation forced Hendriks to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. However, he was named the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts. 

The White Sox front office opted to decline his 2024 club option with a lengthy rehab from surgery looming, allowing Hendriks to hit the open market. While his time in Chicago may have only lasted three seasons, he made his impact felt on the South Side. 

On the mound, he proved to be one of the most dominant relievers in the game earning consecutive trips to the All-Star Game in 2021-22. In 2022 his 37 saves, ranked second in the AL while his 13.27 strikeout per nine innings, 90.2 save percentage, and 36.2% strikeout rate were good enough for third-best in the AL. 

In 2021 he was named the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year for the second straight year and became the first White Sox pitcher to win the award since 2014. He led all AL relievers in saves (38), strikeouts (113), WHIP (0.73), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (16.14). His distinctive primal scream after each save set him apart from other relievers and was a surefire way to fire up the home crowd. Off the mound, he was just as impactful. 

Hendriks was the White Sox nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award for two consecutive seasons, for his work through the “South Slydah Society” which helps give meals to first responders across the city. He also used his platform to address a variety of social issues including  LBGTQ+ prejudice, community gun violence, and animal rights. During his time in Chicago, he donated over 1400 meals to families of small-owned businesses and planned over 20 community events with organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Jesse Brown VA Hospital, and Howard Brown Health. 

Hendriks began his 13-year MLB career as a starter back in 2011 when he made his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins. He bounced around between Minnesota, Kansas City, and Toronto, posting a 5.92 ERA in 39 appearances as a starter in four seasons. The Blue Jays finally decided to move him to the bullpen which changed the trajectory of his career. 

In 2015 he posted a 2.92 ERA and struck out 27.2% of batters faced. He was traded to the A’s before the 2016 season where he transformed into one of the most dominant closers in baseball. He was named an All-Star in 2019 and finished 9th in the AL Cy-Young voting in 2020 before signing with the White Sox. 

In 13 seasons Hendriks owns a 3.82 ERA, 1.195 WHIP, and 9.3 WAR with 116 strikeouts over 650 innings.

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