White Sox closer Liam Hendriks is cancer-free

The White Sox closer’s battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma came to an end Thursday with a proclamation from Hendriks himself that he is cancer-free. “It’s official,” Hendriks said in an Instagram post Thursday.

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Liam Hendriks with wife Jristi.

Liam Hendriks with wife Kristi. “It’s official. I’m cancer free,” Hendriks said.

Liam Hendriks’ Instagram

Cancer came, and Liam Hendriks conquered.

The White Sox closer’s battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma came to an end Thursday with a proclamation from Hendriks himself that he is cancer-free.

“It’s official,” Hendriks said.

“REMISSION.”

Hendriks, 34, announced two weeks ago he was finished with chemotherapy. Word that he was officially free of cancer spread quickly among his teammates, who were flying from Chicago to Florida on Thursday for a three-game series against the Rays that opens Friday at Tropicana Field.

“I’m ecstatic to see that Liam is in remission,” Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “He kicked cancer’s butt just like he said he would, and we all look forward to having him back with us in Chicago. His positivity throughout this entire process has been inspirational. Can’t wait for the return of the South Slyda!”

During spring training in Arizona, Hendriks was a regular visitor in the Sox’ clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. Teammates watched Hendriks work out, throw long toss in the outfield and work his way up to throwing bullpens. Teammates marveled watching him throw with velocity in the 90s.

“Liam is a different animal,” fellow reliever Jimmy Lambert said Wednesday. “He would have pitched through chemotherapy if they had let him.”

On April 6, Hendriks completed his rounds of chemotherapy and rang a hospital victory bell, a beautiful sound that reverberated around the Sox’ clubhouse.

Three months earlier, on Jan. 8, Hendriks disclosed that he had cancer. But by Opening Day on March 30, Sox general manager Rick Hahn disclosed that Hendriks would not be starting the season on the 60-day injured list — he’s on the 15-day IL — sounding the encouraging expectation that Hendriks could be ready to return to the team as soon as late May.

Now it appears all Hendriks needs to return is something similar to a spring-training progression for building strength in his body and in a right arm that won him two consecutive American League reliever of the year awards in 2020 and 2021. Hendriks can work at the team’s complex in Glendale, Arizona, and build up to a minor-league rehab assignment before being activated.

The bullpen needs him. Its ERA of 6.68 through 19 games for a 7-12 team ranks 28th in the majors, and first-year manager Pedro Grifol has operated without a designated ninth-inning man.

“Hearing that Liam is officially cancer-free is truly a blessing for he and Kristi,” bullpen coach Curt Hasler said. “We can’t wait for him to join us in Chicago.”

Hendriks had 37 saves last season, third in the majors, after leading the AL with a career-high 38 saves in 2021. After the abbreviated 2020 season in which he finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting and 13th in AL MVP voting, he signed a three-year, $54 million contract with the Sox.

“You get caught up in the competitiveness, in the slow start or injuries, you can always find something to be frustrated about,” Hahn said last Friday. “But with Liam, he’s helped us all take a broader view about what’s important.

“At the same time, we’ve seen him not lose an ounce of his competitiveness, whether it’s been a battle against cancer or his battle to get back to his previous form and rejoin us. He’s provided us all with a healthy dose of inspiration. Looking forward to having him back.”

NOTE: Gordon Beckham will fill in for Steve Stone in the NBC Sports Chicago booth for the Sox’ trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto. Saturday’s game will appear on Fox-32, with Jason Benetti and Tom Verducci on the call.

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