White Sox’ Liam Hendriks is locked in and looking to lead, and that’s no joke
Hendriks, 33, has reached the elder-statesman stage of his outstanding career, and it’s mighty nice.
LOS ANGELES — No matter if it’s the Beloit Snappers, the Omaha Storm Chasers or the Perth Heat in Liam Hendriks’ Australian hometown — or any of the five major-league teams he has pitched for, including the White Sox — a clubhouse is a clubhouse.
There will be jokes, jabs and cutting rejoinders pinballing around the room on a regular basis.
And if Hendriks is on the team — even an All-Star team — he’s going to make sure of it.
It helped that Tuesday was his third All-Star rodeo in four years. He’d likely have a streak of four straight selections if the 2020 season — when he was the American League reliever of the year with the Athletics — hadn’t been played without the Midsummer Classic because of the pandemic.
“I just know more people here, to be honest,” he said. “Having conversations with guys, being able to kind of judge their levels so I don’t step over the line while trying to make fun of them, or making fun of [myself] — this is a good one for it.”
Hendriks, 33, has reached the elder-statesman stage of his outstanding career, and it’s mighty nice. He was the only reliever on the AL squad with three All-Star selections under his belt, and the only one besides the Tigers’ Gregory Soto who’d had any before this season. The Yankees’ Clay Holmes, the Orioles’ Jorge Lopez, the Blue Jays’ Jordan Romano and the Guardians’ Emmanuel Clase were all first-timers.
“It’s pretty cool, obviously, especially with the volatility of the reliever market and everything that goes into it,” Hendriks said. “To be able to be 3-for-3 in a row over the course of four years has been pretty special. Being able to be that kind of consistent person out there is something I pride myself in. It’s all well and good to have that great year for one year, but being able to put a couple together is pretty rewarding.”
Hendriks got on well with Romano, who fits a similar pitching profile, and picked the brains of Holmes and Lopez, who have their own styles. No word on whether Hendriks will start the second half with Clase’s signature pitch in his arsenal, but probably not.
“If he could teach me the 100 mph cutter, I’d be very grateful,” Hendriks joked.
Hendriks has 18 saves, nearly halfway to his AL-best 38 in 2021, and has been as good as ever after a rocky April. Since coming back from a three-week stint on the injured list with a strained forearm, he has five scoreless, hitless, walkless appearances (one inning each), with more than half the outs coming by strikeout. Over his last nine appearances, four of them before the injury, he has given up zero hits and zero runs, walking only one.
That’s not funny. It’s wicked.
To what extent can a closer lead a team? Hendriks is locked in and looking to shoulder as large a load as he can for the Sox, who finished the first half a disappointing 46-46, three games behind the first-place Twins in the AL Central.
“Let’s be honest — I think everyone in Chicago is ecstatic that we were able to bring it to .500,” he said. “But we’re a team that can go on a run like any other. A .500 team right now within striking distance of the division? Our destiny is our own thing. We’ve got a chance to go ahead and do what we need to do, take care of our business without having to worry about someone else taking care of another team and getting us into [position]. We can handle what we need to handle.”