With Dustin McGowan now residing in the bullpen, the Toronto Blue Jays needed an extra starter for this weekend’s series against the Oakland Athletics. The team considered using Todd Redmond for the spot start, but decided to bring up Liam Hendriks from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
Hendriks may not be a recognizable name for those who don’t listen to Mike Wilner on Blue Jays Talk. So here’s a full breakdown of who he is and why put himself on the Blue Jays’ radar:
Name: Liam Hendriks
Born: Perth, Western Australia
Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 205 lb.
Hendriks isn’t an overpowering pitcher, but he gets results with above-average control. With an average fastball velocity of 90.2 mph, the right-hander needs to hit his spots. He has reached the big leagues in each of the past three seasons, mixing in a slider, curveball and change-up.
The Australian is in the midst of his best stretch of his career as a professional pitcher as he is posting spectacular numbers in 2014 with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. In nine appearances thus far, Hendriks has a 5-0 record with 36 strikeouts, three walks, an ERA of 1.48 and a WHIP of 0.8 in 48.2 innings pitched.
The Minnesota Twins originally signed Hendriks as an amateur free agent for $170,000 in 2007. He made his debut in the Twins organization with the Gulf Coast League Twins where he led the club in strikeouts while playing alongside current major-leaguers Ben Revere, Yangervis Solarte, and Glen Perkins.
He quickly moved up in the organization, starting the 2011 season in double-A New Britain (Connecticut) before he was promoted to triple-A after just 16 appearances. Hendriks made nine starts in Rochester, putting together a 4-4 record with a 4.56 ERA, 30 strikeouts and three walks while earning a selection to the MLB Futures Game.
Note: You can see Sal Fasano in the background.
In September of 2011, Hendriks was called up to the major-leagues and made his debut on Sept. 6 in a start against the Chicago White Sox. He pitched seven innings while allowing four hits, and three earned runs in a 3-0 loss. Things went downhill from there as he was rocked in each of his final three starts of the season, allowing 13 earned runs while giving up 25 hits in 16.1 innings.
Hendriks spent the next two years bouncing between Rochester and Minnesota, and the consistent theme was that he continued to get rocked in the big-leagues. In 16 MLB starts in 2012, the Aussie had a 1-8 record with an ERA of 5.59 and a WHIP of 1.54. He allowed 17 home runs and 53 earned runs, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio remained solid with 50 strikeouts versus just 26 walks in 85.1 innings. In 2013, he made just eight starts with Minnesota and 10 overall appearances where he posted an ERA of 6.85 with a WHIP of 1.71. The Twins had seen enough and designated him for assignment the following off-season.
From there, Hendriks bounced around the league. He was selected off waivers by the Cubs in December of 2013, but his stint with Chicago didn’t last long. He was waived again and the Baltimore Orioles picked him up ten days later (Dec. 23). Hendricks lasted a few months in Baltimore before he was waived again and selected off waivers by the Blue Jays this past February.
It’s unclear whether Anthopoulos saw some untapped potential in Hendriks or just needed minor-league depth but the results have been tremendous. Anthopoulos was so impressed, he personally went down to Buffalo to scout his last start.
Stroman is expected to eventually fill the void as the No. 5 starter in Toronto, but for now it's Hendriks turn to show the Blue Jays' his worth.