Liam Hendriks adds big personality to Sox clubhouse


It probably didn't take long for White Sox fans to notice Liam Hendriks' on-field behavior when he faced off against his future mates in the playoffs last year.

Screaming, yelling, fist-pumping, swearing. It's all part of Hendriks' act on the mound, the pitching equivalent of Tim Anderson's bat flips.

What wasn't as apparent, perhaps not even known to his new teammates until he showed up to spring training last month, is that Hendriks is always on.

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"The same fire and intensity he brings to the game mound, where he screams and yells out his own coaching or screams because he's happy, he does that in his bullpens, too," White Sox reliever Evan Marshall told NBC Sports Chicago last month. "He matches the adrenaline in his practice that he uses in a game.

"I think that's admirable because most people would blow a gasket trying to do that all the time."

Hendriks hasn't even got into a Cactus League game yet, but he's already cranking up the intensity, as displayed in Sunday's B game on a back field at Camelback Ranch.

Warning: Bad words to follow.

"It's not just me going out there aimlessly cussing and yelling," Hendriks said Sunday. "It serves a purpose, not only for me kind of venting my frustration, but it actually calms me down.

"I never used to do it. I never used to be an emotional guy because I felt as a baseball (player) you needed to be a little more stoic, you needed to be a little more reserved. And that was kind of the previous generations where it was, you didn't show those exuberant emotions at all times, you saved them for special occasions.

"After watching (fellow Australian) Grant Balfour pitch a little bit, I started tapping into it, and me being very verbally aggressive tended to coincide with what I was able to do the last couple of years. ... It's something that helps me get a little more focused. And it lets everybody in the world know that I just messed up a pitch, so it puts a little bit of a drive, a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to make sure the next one's a good one."

If you haven't figured it out by now, Hendriks is a different cat.

He reveled in it Sunday, explaining that while most pitchers enjoy hydrating drinks after outings, he sips on Dr. Pepper, which he promptly displayed as good as any TV pitchman. He reveled in it earlier this week, too, the White Sox tweeting out pictures of Hendriks from photo day, in which their new $54 million closer was sporting a batting helmet, wearing Eloy Jiménez's batting gloves and posing with a bat.

"Photo day's always a strenuous day because it's so monotonous, you move from station to station," he said. "But you've got to have fun with everything. You've got to have fun, no matter what, whether it's off the field, on the field. You just have some fun, and it makes things go by a lot quicker and a lot easier."

It was just photo day but a nice preview of what Hendriks plans to bring to the White Sox bullpen. What it means to add arguably the game's finest closer has been discussed plenty. Adding Hendriks' personality to this relief group could be pretty important, too.

"I want to bring that air of confidence while also being able to enjoy the game," Hendriks said. "There’s no way you can stay out there for 162 games and be laser focused, always serious. You’re going to burn yourself out. ... We need to be able to get along, we need to be able to make fun of each other and receive a little bit of the constructive criticism, per se, from each other. As long as we stay in that lighthearted mood, I think we’re going to have a good year out there."

"I think the guys are really enjoying him," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "The guys and coaching staff are having a lot of fun with him. He messes with the coaching staff all the time. He’s a big addition once we get late in the game with a lead, but a lot happens before it happens in the game in that clubhouse."

"He’s the first one to make a joke, but he’s going to take the same jokes coming back. He’s going to dish it out and take it at the same time," White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer said. "One hundred sixty-two games is a long time sitting out there with him. But it’s going to be a good mix down there."

Typically, a good way to get folks chuckling is to head to the plate as a relief pitcher. But despite the scarcity of non-photo-day offensive opportunities for closers, this is something Hendriks is serious about: He wants a hit before his career is over, and he's willing to lobby La Russa to get a shot at one.

"I've got, what, one year left before potentially having the league-wide DH?" he said. "So I've got one year left to try and get that first hit."

"All I want is one. I just want one hit. I want the ball, I want to put it on my wall, and that's it. That's all I want. Plus, my nickname — back before I signed as a reliever, I almost signed as an outfielder — but my swing name was 'Ugly Power' because, apparently, I didn't use my hips. But I could hit a little bit.

"I have a walk. ...  I dropped my bat directly on the plate, did my little trot out there. You’ve got to have fun with it. I’m not out there trying to impress anybody. I’m just trying to enjoy my life and have fun playing this game."

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