Liam Hendriks

White Sox' Liam Hendriks sharp, earns first win of season

Sunday marked the first time Liam Hendriks pitched the ninth inning this season, and delivered his best game of the year

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When Liam Hendriks first returned to the White Sox he knew he’d have to earn his closing role again. It’s obviously not easy to return to play practically half a year after receiving a cancer diagnosis, so it’s understandable that Pedro Grifol called for Hendriks in the eighth inning in his first game of the 2023 season. It’s equally understandable that Hedriks wouldn’t be as sharp as usual, so no one begrudged Hendriks when he gave up two runs on three hits in his first appearanceー except for Hendriks of course. The fiery reliever was happy to be healthy and back playing, but he wasn’t happy with his results.

"I will never be OK with mediocrity," Hendriks said after his 2023 debut. "I will never be OK with not being at the backend of the bullpen. But, in saying that, I need to earn it. I don't want handouts. I need to earn it. At the end of the day, that's mine.

"I will get there and I will earn it myself."

In his second game back, Hendriks entered in the seventh inning. It was something he didn’t do at all in 2022 and only a handful of times in 2021 when the White Sox were trying to figure out how to accommodate both Hendriks and Craig Kimbrel in the same bullpen. Hendriks was much sharper in his second appearance. He got his first strikeout and didn’t allow any base runners. That was enough for Grifol to plug Hendriks back into the ninth inning on Sundayー which is coincidentally National Cancer Survivors Dayー and Hendriks delivered his best outing of the year.

Hendriks was called upon to hold Detroit in the final frame, as the Tigers and White Sox were locked at two runs apiece. Out the gate, his slider was the best it’s looked, and when he can throw his slider for strikes, opposing batters usually don’t stand a chance. Sunday was no different. He retired the side easily with two strikeouts and threw 10 of his 15 total pitches for strikes.

The White Sox responded with a thrilling walkoff win off a Jake Burger grand slam, and Hendriks got the win in the process.

“It's been an emotional week,” Hendriks said after the game. “The stuff ticked up as well, which was nice. It's one of those scripts. I mean, my wife texted me and was like ‘You got your first win on National Cancer Survivors Day.’ That's one thing that's pretty special.

“Obviously, as soon as you get diagnosed, you're considered a survivor. You've lived through this. Hopefully I can continue moving forward and continue to somewhat at least do the right thing on the field, and it gives people some hope to continue fighting.”

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