Red Sox’ Liam Hendriks optimistic about Tommy John recovery

Red Sox

Hendriks led MLB in saves in 2021, but his life took an unexpected turn soon after that.

Liam Hendriks is spending the first half of 2024 recovering from Tommy John surgery. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

On the mound, Liam Hendriks has seen high highs and low lows in his 14-year MLB tenure. Off it, he’s battled through more than many of his peers.

And, through all of it, the relief pitcher is still optimistic about his future with the Red Sox.

Hendriks is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery after suffering an injury shortly into his 2023 campaign. That put a damper on what was a remarkable return for Hendriks, who’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Dec. 2022.

After going through the unimaginable health scare at 33 years old, Hendriks returned to the MLB in late May of 2023. He was awarded the Jimmy V award for perseverance at that year’s ESPYs, but only appeared in five games in 2023 before suffering the devastating elbow injury.

This offseason, Boston inked a multi-year deal with Hendriks, who is in the middle of rehabilitation and won’t appear for the team for some time. He’s making good progress, though.

“It’s going well,” Hendriks said, appearing on NESN’s Friday broadcast of Red Sox-White Sox. “I’m in my de-load week this week, so nice and easy, play catch at 60 feet three times this week and start ramping up next week. Get on hopefully a full-size mound in a couple of weeks I think it is, and then go from there.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that they are telling me I’m doing a good job and I’m ahead of schedule which is great.”

Hendriks noted he’s throwing between 85 and 90 miles per hour right now.

At his best, Hendriks claimed fame as one of the league’s best relievers. He led the MLB in saves in 2021 (38), the year before his world turned upside down. That season, his ERA was 2.54, the third-lowest mark of his career.

Earlier in his career, as a starter, Hendriks didn’t see nearly as much success. His ERA hovered between 5.23 and 6.85 for the first five years of his career. A move to the bullpen helped get the righty back on track.

The biggest question currently surrounding Hendriks is just how much can he get back after such a tough last couple of years. The reliever seems optimistic about his chances to come back strong when he finally can play for Boston.

“I mean I wouldn’t try to come back if I didn’t think that was attainable,” Hendriks said. “I’m not coming back to suck. I’ve always been a strike thrower … the goal is to never walk anybody because you know what? The best hitter in the world is going to hit maybe .350, and if they hit .350 that still means they’re getting out 65 percent of the time. So, why would I put them on base for free?”

It remains to be seen whether Hendriks will be able to pitch in 2024. Regardless, he’ll be in Boston until at least the end of 2025, helping add bullpen depth to a surprisingly strong Red Sox pitching staff.

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