Liam Hendriks was totally caught off guard when he learned he had been traded by the Toronto Blue Jays, but after the initial shock he quickly realized how advantageous a trade to the Oakland Athletics could be for his career.
Not only is Northern California closer to his home in Australia, but, after speaking with GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin, the 26-year-old pitcher feels he’ll be given an opportunity to secure a role in the back-end of the Athletics bullpen next season.
“I think it’ll be a good stepping stone to become a set-up, closer type and as a reliever that’s where you want to be,” Hendriks said Wednesday on The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “With (Roberto) Osuna, (Aaron) Sanchez and (Brett) Cecil it would’ve been tough to get there with Toronto because they got three guys that can do both of those roles.
“It’s exciting for me and I’m not taking anything for granted and will need to force their hand to put me in those roles.”
Hendriks is coming off of a breakout 2015 campaign in which the reliever posted a career-best 2.92 ERA with 71 strikeouts, 11 walks and three home runs allowed in 64.2 innings for the Blue Jays while displaying increased velocity.
The pitcher credited the turnaround to improved health along with the influence of Blue Jays catchers Russell Martin and Dioner Navarro.
“I was never unhealthy per se. But I ate a bit cleaner and stopped drinking,” he told co-hosts Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt. “I never drank too much to begin with but I stopped completely…It wasn’t much of a sacrifice on my behalf. I did a lot my lower-body and shoulders work in the gym. Everything played a part.
“I have that bulldog mentality and it worked well out of the ‘pen. Hopefully I can take that to Oakland and do well.”
Hendriks, who spent parts of two seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization, learned he had been dealt to Oakland in exchange for pitcher Jesse Chavez while he was attending a wedding rehearsal dinner.
“It definitely wasn’t something I was expecting,” he said. “It really caught me and my wife off guard. We were making plans to be back up in Toronto for the season.
“I’ll miss the team. I’ll miss the guys. I’ll definitely miss the city. We had a blast there.”