AUSTRALIA’S only current major leaguer, Liam Hendriks, continued his strong start to 2015 with his first win of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hendriks pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning as the Jays rallied from a two-run deficit to post a 7-6 victory over the Houston Astros.
The win, which completed a series sweep of the Astros, improved Toronto’s record to 28-30. They trail the New York Yankees by 4.5 games in the American League East division.
Hendriks has found his groove in the Jays bullpen this season after spending the majority of his major league career as a starting pitcher, dating back to 2011.
His Earned Run Average of 3.42 in 2015 is well down on his career mark of 5.61, but it is his new found velocity that is prompting most discussion around the majors.
Hendriks has never been renowned as a power pitcher, but his reassignment to the bullpen has coincided with pitch speeds rising as high as 95 miles per hour (153 kilometres per hour).
He has struck out 28 batters in 26.1 innings this season.
“At the start of the year, in spring training … my velo(city) was 93 (miles per hour) to 95,” Hendriks told Sportsnet last week.
“Now it’s kicked up and it almost feels like I’m putting a little less effort to into it but it’s sticking around 95.
“I’m not trying to throw it as hard as I can every time but it still has the same sort of velocity.
“It’s always an added bonus when you can kick up the mileage a little bit so hopefully it sticks up all year and we can keep going.”
Hendriks endured a dizzying 2014 campaign. He posted a 1-2 record with Toronto before being traded to the Kansas City Royals organisation.
He worked his way back up from the minors to find himself pitching in the Royals’ playoff race. He was eventually left off Kansas Cory’s post-season roster and reacquired by Toronto in the off-season.
“You want to be one of those late inning, important situation guys. Given a couple more opportunities I can start moving and feeling more comfortable in those situations,” Hendriks said.