Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks has been able to put four saves up on the board in the early going but he hasn’t reached lockdown mode just yet. The reigning Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year has come out of the gates slowly while still working toward finding the form that has made him one of the top closers in the game.
The opener in Detroit was a nightmare for Hendriks as he blew a save opportunity and took the loss in a 5-4 defeat. Hendriks surrendered four hits, one of which was a home run, and gave up two runs in one inning of work. The outcome several days later against Seattle was better as he picked up his first save but he wasn’t perfect giving up one run on three hits.
Since then, Hendriks has notched three more saves while surrendering one run on four hits over three innings. The rough start is nothing new for Hendriks who has been down this road as recently as last year.
During his first three games of 2021, Hendriks managed to nail down one save while adding a blown save in three innings. He gave up three runs on four hits in that span before closing out the month of April with three more saves and a win over seven appearances.
Once May rolled around, Hendriks hit his groove, and following a loss on the fifth of the month he rattled off 11 saves and one win before blowing a save but getting the win on June 11th. From that point to the end of the season, Hendriks would save 21 games and record three blown saves, two of which he posted wins in.
Liam Hendriks is going to be just fine for the Chicago White Sox going forward.
Based on history, Hendriks’ slow start should not be the type of thing that is a cause for concern. Hendriks seems happy with how he is throwing the ball and knows getting batters out will come.
"“Everything’s coming out well, it’s just a couple of pitches here and there. For whatever reason it seems like I’ve got to strike them out to get them out,” he said. “That’s the situation we’re at now, but it’ll flip around.”"
Hendriks has yielded 11 fly balls to six ground balls so far and has a 63% strike rate. In his five appearances, he is averaging just over 23 pitches per inning. However, that number would be higher if it weren’t for the one appearance in which he faced only three hitters. Batters are swinging and missing on 19% of his pitches.
Undoubtedly, the abbreviated spring training has not allowed pitchers to be at their best just yet and Hendriks finds himself entrenched in that group. After picking up his fourth save last Saturday, Hendriks admitted the location on his fastball needs to be better.
"“I’m just not getting the fastball after [a good slider] into the right location. That seems to be the issue I’m going through right now,” Hendriks said."
There is still plenty of time for Hendriks to find his comfort zone and the team is confident he will get there sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the White Sox just keeps winning. They have taken two of three games from Detroit, Seattle, and Tampa Bay to open the season.