Pitchers had no problem throwing free and easy in Friday night’s steam at Target field. Oakland closer Liam Hendriks was so loose he registered 100 miles per hour with two of the 20 pitches needed for a five-out save.
“We looked at it officially,” Hendriks said later. “Those pitches were 99.8 and 99.9. And [his teammates] say that’s not 100.”
Hendriks was signed out of Australia by the Twins’ Howie Norsetter as a 17-year-old. He made his debut in Target Field on Sept. 6, 2011, as a 22-year-old. He went seven innings in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox, in the first of four September starts for the righthander.
Overall, Hendriks made 28 starts (in 30 appearances) for the Twins, before he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cubs on Dec. 13, 2013. The Cubs then tried to get him through waivers and Hendriks was claimed by Baltimore.
It was the start of a wild ride that continued into last summer, when on June 25, 2018, he was designated for assignment. Reminded on the one-year anniversary of that action, he said:
“It was the fifth time I got DFA’d. It wasn’t just the first or the second.”
Hendriks’ fastball had gone from 96-97 to the low 90s as his ERA soared to 7.36. He spent most of his time in the minors long-tossing and working out. When he returned on Sept. 1, it was with his best-ever fastball — and it keeps getting better.
One hundred miles per hour. Less a fraction.
A Twins employee from his days in Minnesota: “It’s incredible. He had a good arm, but he didn’t throw extra hard. He’s bigger. Maybe that’s it.”
One thing’ hasn’t changed: He still offers that quirky Aussie view of life in interviews.
“I was hoping Thorpey would be here,” said Hendriks on Friday, referring to Lewis Thorpe, the Aussie lefthander who made a start for the Twins on June 30 and went right back to Rochester.
“We could go out for some Aussie food … catch up,” Hendriks said.
Do they have an Aussie restaurant in Minneapolis? He shrugged and said: “They gotta have an Outback, mate.”
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
More on Hendriks:
• Hendriks was the A’s “opener” in 2018 for eight starts in September, along with the wild-card loss to the Yankees. He was down 2-0 promptly after an Aaron Judge home run.
• Hendriks became the A’s closer on June 22. Through Friday: 11 scoreless appearances, seven saves, 12⅓ innings and 20 strikeouts.
• Alejandro De Aza had two (triple, RBI single) of four White Sox hits off Hendriks in his Twins debut in September 2011. This week, the Twins signed veteran outfielder De Aza for Class AAA Rochester.