Former Aussie Rules tragic, Blue Jays pitcher Liam Hendriks relishing bullpen role

Hendriks #31 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses on photo day.Source: Getty Images

Hendriks #31 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses on photo day.Source: Getty Images

By Melanie Dinjaski/FOX SPORTS

LIAM Hendriks is in the midst of a standout season in Major League Baseball. But he hasn’t forgotten his footy roots.

Like most West Australian kids, the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher grew up playing Aussie Rules. Making representative teams in the sport as a halfback flank, Hendriks only started playing baseball as a youngster to have something to do in the off-season.

Liam Hendriks #31 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Russell Martin #

Liam Hendriks #31 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Russell Martin #55.Source: AFP

Even though his days chasing a Sherrin are now well behind him, the 26-year-old told theToronto Sun he still keeps a footy in his locker at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays home ground.

“Football was everything,” Hendriks told Steve Buffery.

“That was all I really cared about growing up. I played a lot of sports, but Australian Rules football was the main one, almost up until the day I signed.”

After spending time with the Minnesota Twins, Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals from 2011-2014, Hendriks is now back with Toronto this year and playing the best baseball of his career.

A former starting pitcher with mixed results and limited gametime, the move to the bullpen as a reliever has worked wonders for Hendriks’ game.

In 2012 with the Twins, Hendriks played 16 MLB games, the most he had played in any season.

Until this year.

So far in 2015 he has pitched in 26 games for Toronto. His fastball average has gone from 146.9km/h last season, to 151.3km/h. Hendriks has already made 34 strikeouts, posted an ERA of 2.78 and a 2-0 record.

Hendriks in 2005 as a fresh-faced 16-year old still yet to decide if he would go into the

Hendriks in 2005 as a fresh-faced 16-year old still yet to decide if he would go into the AFL or pursue baseball. Picture: Ian CugleySource: News Limited

“He’s come a long way. Now that he’s a bullpen guy, his stuff’s better,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.

“We put him the bullpen in spring training and everything just kicked up a little bit.

“You kind of let it rip for an inning or two and it has made all the difference in the world for him.”

“My velocity has been consistent and I’m working at keeping it that way,” Hendriks said.

“I think it has always been in there but it has never been full harnessed and that’s what I’ve been able to do this year with a little bit more of an aggressive approach.”

The grunt and focus required as a reliever to close out games, is also helped by Hendriks’ Aussie Rules background.

Unlike his dad, a former VFL and WAFL player, Hendriks said he was lucky not to suffer too many injuries before giving it all up for baseball.

“I was blessed with that when I played,” Hendriks, a mad North Melbourne Kangaroos fan, said.

“But I got my dad’s skill set.”

Reds release Dakota Mitchell

MitchellDakotaIts not been a happy time for Adelaide’s Dakota Mitchell since being signed by the Reds in February 2013.   He made five appearances at the 2012 MLBAAP [Academy] including four as a starter and finished with a 1.38 ERA recording 12 strikeouts while allowing only 7 hits in 13 innings of work.  That was all the Reds needed to see of the 18yr old despite the fact that he had subsequently had Tommy John surgery.   He did his TJ rehab at Spring training immediately following his signing.

He missed all of 2013 after having that Tommy John surgery but got back on the mound briefly for his club in Adelaide and threw 14 innings before heading back to Arizona in 2014 for his 2nd spring training.   During ST he was used as a closer and did well but again injury sidelined him when his elbow flamed up.   He got over that only to have his shoulder play up again.   The Reds then decided that he needed surgery on a bicep tendon which counted him out until this year’s spring training.

This week, following Spring Training, he was released.   We’ve said it before – it’s a tough business.

 

The Evolution of Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks in action last spring. Photo Eddie Michels

Liam Hendriks in action last spring.
Photo Eddie Michels

by Douglas Fox/chatsports.com

When Toronto Blue Jays reliever Liam Hendriks got out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the 7th inning against the Boston Red Sox yesterday, his escape act seemed to signal a watershed moment in this transition from a starting pitcher to a reliever:

Hendriks was originally signed in 2008 by Minnesota from the Australian baseball hotspot of Perth, and made his debut with the Twins in 2011. He made 28 starts over 3 seasons with them, but never was able to catch on as a full-time member of their rotation.  He was claimed on waivers by the Cubs, followed by the Orioles, and then the Blue Jays in the 2013-14 offseason, and after dominating AAA, made 3 starts for the Blue Jays.  Hendriks wasn’t able to repeat his success, and facing a roster decision, Toronto dealt him to Kansas City, along with Catcher Erik Kratz and inf/of Danny Valencia.  The Royals dealt him back to the Blue Jays in the offseason for minor league Catcher Santiago Nessy.

Faced with the prospect of losing Hendriks – who is out of options -on a waiver claim, the Blue Jays opted to keep Hendriks on the Major League roster coming out of spring training.  The thought at the time was that he might step into the rotation if a starter faltered, but as April turned into May, and then June, Hendriks has begun to look more and more like a set-up reliever.

Hendriks would not be the first washed out starter to join the Toronto bullpen.  Brett Cecil won 15 games as a starter for the Blue Jays in 2010, but faltered badly as a starter the following season, spent some time in the minors, and resurfaced as a reliever in 2012.  The following season, he retired a club-record 43 consecutive batters, and earned a spot on the American League All Star roster.  He has been a mainstay in Toronto’s pen ever since.

As a starter, Hendriks relied on a mix of four pitches to try to get hitters out.  As a reliever, he has pared that repertoire down:

hendriks-Brooksbaseball-Chart-1024x683

The fourseam fastball, as expected, has been his go-to pitch, and he’s vacillated between his curve and twoseamer, although the curve has been winning.  As you might expect, pitching for shorter stints has led to an uptick in average velocity:hendriks-2Brooksbaseball-Chart-1024x683

The problem with a fourseam fastball is that, while it’s easier to throw it hard, it tends not to have much movement:hendriks-4Brooksbaseball-Chart-1024x683

And the problem with not having much movement is twofold:  you have to be able to command the fourseam fastball much more so than your other pitches.  If a pitcher is unable to hit his spots with his fourseamer, he tends to issue walks, or bat barrels can find it quite easily.  And while Hendriks had a bit of a rough April, he has been very effective over the last month – righthanded hitters are managing only a .197 average against him.

Doug Fox has played, watched, studied, and generally obsessed about baseball for decades, and once played in the Toronto Star Pee-Wee Baseball tournament. He writes about Blue Jays prospects and minor league baseball at clutchlings.blogspot.ca Follow him on Twitter @Clutchlings77

Clutch pitching from Aussie Liam Hendriks earns him first two wins of season for Toronto Blue Jays

Hendriks1280_r4tm370s_dm2fgpdjMATTHEW Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut weren’t the only Australians making huge strides in the US big time this week.

Liam Hendriks, Australia’s only active Major League Baseball representative, won two games in three days as his Toronto Blue Jays charged to within three games of the New York Yankees in the American League East.

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.

He followed that effort with a scoreless ninth inning against the Miami Marlins as Toronto surged to a 4-3 win.

To put his performances in perspective, Hendriks needed 723 days to win the first two games of his major league career between 2011 and 2013 when pitching for the Minnesota Twins.

He now possesses a 2-0 win-loss record in 2015, contrasting sharply with his career mark of 3-15 compiled over the previous four seasons.

The Western Australian hurler has found his groove in the Jays bullpen this season after spending the majority of his major league career as a starting pitcher.

His Earned Run Average of 3.29 in 2015 is well down on his career mark of 5.58, 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 29 batters in 27.1 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.

The Jays are currently riding an eight game winning streak.

“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.

Source: Fox Sports

WBSC submits application for Baseball and Softball inclusion at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

olympics11LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, Riccardo Fraccari, today announced that the world governing body has submitted an official proposal to the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (TOCOG) for the addition of men’s baseball and women’s softball at the 2020 Games.

“It is an honour for the World Baseball Softball Confederation to submit the application to Tokyo 2020 organisers,” said President Fraccari, “and on behalf of baseball and softball, I would like to fully thank and recognise IOC President Thomas Bach for his Olympic Agenda 2020 vision, which has created this exciting new process for new sports-events, like baseball and softball, to be considered for the world’s biggest sports stage, the Olympic Games.”

The Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Programme Panel will evaluate the proposals from IOC-recognised non-Olympic international sports federations, with Tokyo 2020 set to announce a shortlist on 22 June.The WBSC is hoping to highlight that adding baseball and softball to the 2020 Games in Japan – where the bat-and-ball sport is embedded in the society across both genders – will serve to optimise fan, youth and overall engagement, helping to captivate the entire Olympic host nation of Japan and audiences worldwide. Baseball and softball are played by an estimated 65 million athletes in over 140 countries and attract approximately 150 million fans annually to stadiums worldwide.

“Adding baseball and softball – a major global team sport and highly popular in Japan – can help further position the Olympic Games as the centre of the sporting and cultural universe – providing the athletes, organisers and viewers with an electrifying Games-time synergy and atmosphere,” President Fraccari said.

“Baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020 Games can help spread Olympic values with the entire nation of Japan and those around the world – and give inspiration to be at the Olympic Games and to be an Olympian – providing another key pathway for TOCOG and the Olympic Movement to connect directly with millions of people worldwide, particularly younger generations, women and our sport’s loyal fans,” said President Fraccari.

With a number of existing world-class baseball and softball facilities in Tokyo and across Japan, and with Olympic Agenda 2020 as a guiding light, the 2020 Olympic baseball and softball business model would have a negligible impact on both construction costs and the environment, while helping to drive greater ticket sales, media interest and viewership – making for a low-risk, high-reward option for TOCOG and the Olympic Movement.

“This synergy would be a cost-effective way – reflecting Olympic Agenda 2020 – to help shine a bigger spotlight on the athletes and the Tokyo 2020 Games, while potentially generating a bigger return for the Olympic brand and sponsors. This can lead to a wonderful and sustainable legacy for the future, inspired by Olympic Agenda 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

WBSC leadership considers the proposal a real milestone in the history of baseball and softball, which represents the many years of hard work and shared vision by baseball’s and softball’s global stakeholders to be part of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Source: World Baseball Softball Confederation

Clutch pitching from Liam Hendriks earns him first win of season for Toronto Blue Jays

Hendriks28By Matthew Taylor/FOX SPORTS

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.

A – Shepherd’s All-Star Success

shepherd3

Photo: Eddie Michels

Sydney Blue Sox player Zac Shepherd is going from stride to stride with the West Michigan Whitecaps after being selected for 2015 Midwest League All-Star Classic to be held at Dozer Park in Peoria, Illinois on Tuesday, June 23.

Shepherd has been a product of the Baseball NSW youth system being a state team player for five years during his development. He was a member of back to back National Championships in the under 18 age group and progressively represented the Sydney Blue Sox.

Regarded as a big hitter, his successes on the diamond in Australia led to him signing with Major League side the Detroit Tigers.

Sydney Blue Sox High Performance Coach Glenn Williams aided Shepherd’s rise and admits his determination is what led to his success.

“The kid has natural talent there’s no denying that, but it’s his determination and ambition that has led to his success,” said Williams who doubles as a scout for the Tigers.

“He has tremendous hitting ability and is a really smart baseball player.”

Shepherd finished his third season with the Sydney Blue Sox in January, hitting .227 with 16 RBI, six home runs and a .365 on-base percentage in 37 games.

Last summer, he played 51 games for the rookie-class Gulf Coast League Tigers, hitting .301 (12th in the GCL), with 29 RBI, four home runs, 12 doubles, five triples, and a .373 OBP in his first season in the Minors.

Zac was a junior Hills member playing his entire junior career in Western Sydney. He represented Australia in 2012 and 2013 in the under 18 age group and 2014 in the under 21 age group.

His progress has been consistent over the past two years and as a result is now playing for the West Michigan White Caps who are the Mid-West League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

His transition to the Whitecaps has been smooth with former Blue Sox catcher and fellow Aussie Andrew Graham there as the manager. The two have developed a strong relationship which Shepherd credits as an influence of his success.

The 19-year-old prospect is tied for fifth in the league with 15 doubles. He entered play on Friday second on the team in RBI with 31 is batting .263 with two home runs.

Shepherd celebrated his All-Star selection in style with a homerun in the seventh inning giving the Whitecaps the lead and ultimately against the victory over the league-leading Quad Cities Riverbandits.

Source: Baseball NSW

ZAC SHEPHERD MINOR LEAGUE STATISTICS

Boston Red Sox AAA Manager Kevin Boles to take the Helm for the Heat in 2015/16 Season

Former Blue Sox manager returns to the ABL

- FORT MYERS, FL March 14, 2011 - (Brita Meng Outzen/Boston Red Sox) (Brita Meng Outzen)

– FORT MYERS, FL March 14, 2011 – (Brita Meng Outzen/Boston Red Sox) (Brita Meng Outzen)

By Paul Morgan / Perth Heat

The Perth Heat have announced that current Boston Red Sox AAA manager, Kevin Boles, will be managing the Heat for the 2015/16 season.

Known in the industry as one of the best brains in Baseball and a manager on the rise, the 40-year-old Chicago native is a huge coup for a team looking to become the first team in Australia Baseball League history to achieve a Hat-trick of championships.

In his role with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Boles led his team to a record of 79 wins 65 losses last season and Pawtucket currently sit in second place behind Rochester this season.

Boles’ other role in Pawtucket is to develop players to a level of excellence that deems them worthy to don the famous B cap and run out under lights at Fenway Park full of Boston faithful.

With Boston being one of the most storied teams in all of sports and having players such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Cy Young, Carl Yastrzemski and current day stars: Ortiz, Pedroia, Ramirez, Bogaerts, Sandoval & Vasquez just to name a few, the pressure and expectation to get it right in the Boston Farm requires the highest level of excellence to be successful.

It’s this level of excellence, preparation and determination to succeed that made Boles the stand out candidate to take the helm at the Heat.

Boles also has the opportunity to work alongside Baseball WA’s High Performance Manager, Steve Fish to help develop, mentor and teach young WA talent who are striving for their shot at one day playing affiliated or college ball.

Baseball WA Operations Manager, Lachlan Dale backed this up by saying “Kevin will be working not only with the Perth Heat as Manager, but also with our State players and coaches, clubs and staff as he shares his valuable experience and knowledge. This appointment will develop baseball across the board in WA, not just the Heat.”

Boles has a reputation for getting the best out of his players and his resume to date in doing just this is impressive. During his time in the Boston Red Sox organisation, Boles has managed and developed current Boston Red Sox MLB stars such as: Christian Vazquez, Xander Boggerts, Will Middlebrook and Junichi Tazawa to name a few. Boggerts, Middlebrook and Tazawa all went on to become members of the 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series champions.

Boles is no stranger to life in Australia or the ABL having managed the Sydney Blue Sox in 2011/12 and said “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to come back and manage in Australia, especially with a first class organisation like the Perth Heat.”
Perth Heat CEO Tony Adamson says he’s excited about luring Boles to Perth, “it will be great to increase the level of baseball knowledge among the coaching staff, and I’m certain that this will contribute to another excellent season.”

The era of Kevin Boles at the helm of the Heat commences on Friday October 23rd when the Heat have a Championship series rematch against the Adelaide Bite here in Perth, which will give Boles and the Heat the opportunity to take the first step into Australian Baseball folklore.

Tampa Bay Rays: Saying Goodbye to Grant Balfour

Has his successful career reached the end of the line.

Has his successful career reached the end of the line.

by Robbie Knopf/rayscolouredglasses

It is always sad when the Tampa Bay Rays need to get rid of a player. For some, like Grant Balfour, he has to wonder whether his successful career has reached the end of the line…

Grant Balfour was doing fine at Triple-A Durham. He registered a 2.79 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched, striking out 11 while walking 4. When a major leaguer puts up numbers like that on a rehab assignment, his team knows that he is ready to return. For Balfour, however, his numbers did not matter nearly as much as the stuff he was using to record them. His fastball was still more 90-91 MPH than 93-94. He didn’t show the arsenal to be an effective major league pitcher, especially given that command was never his strong suit.

It would have been something if Balfour had come back to the Rays after heading to the minors. If he had returned to the Rays, resumed their closer role, and led them to the World Series, it would have been the stuff of movies. We always knew, however, that the likely outcome was that Balfour’s minor league stint would just delay the inevitable. Balfour’s two-year, $12 million deal was only better than Pat Burrell‘s two-year deal because the Rays paid $4 million less. Despite Balfour’s best intentions, he simply didn’t have it anymore after joining the Rays.

Complete Aussie & NZ Player List

 James Beresford is hitting .336 in 39 games in AAA.

James Beresford is hitting .336 in 39 games in AAA.

Travis Blackley is now with the Marlin’s AAA New Orleans, where he gave up five runs in five innings in his first start of the season.

A few players are still on the D/L including Peter Moylan, Allan de San Miguel and Daniel McGrath.

Sam Gibbons has been promoted to the Cedar Rapids Kernels from Extended Spring Training

Matt Kennelly has been moved down to AA to get him more ABs.

Other players continue at extended spring training which will conclude next month when short season A and rookie seasons will commence.

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Players in full season teams

Majors:  Liam Hendriks (Blue Jays),

Triple-AGrant Balfour (Rays), James Beresford (Twins), Travis Blackley (Marlins), John Holdzkom (Pirates), Allan de San Miguel [Twins],

Double-ATim Atherton [A’s], Matt Kennelly (Braves), Warwick Saupold (Tigers),

High-A:,Sam Holland (Padres), Daniel McGrath [Red Sox], Todd Van Steensel [Twins], Logan Wade[Twins]

A: Sam Gibbons [Twins], Robbie Perkins [Rockies], Zac Shepherd (Tigers), Sam Street [Pirates].

Players at Extended Spring

Short Season A:   Aaron Sookee [D’Backs],

Rookie: Dean Aldridge (Tigers)Jack Barrie [Twins], Beau Bishop [Brewers], Jake Bowey [Astros], Jared Cruz (Astros), Ryan Dale (Royals), Josh Guyer (Twins), Elliott Hargreaves [Reds], Nick Hutchings (Pirates), Sam Kennelly (Pirates), Ben Leslie [Giants], Connor MacDonald (Astros), Lachlan Madden (Astros),  Todd McDonald (Rangers), Dakota Mitchell (Reds),  Aaron Sayers [Tigers], Brad Simon (Rangers), Brandon Stenhouse (Yankees), Jake Turnbull [Reds], Aaron Whitefield (Twins), Lachlan Wells [Twins]

Peter Moylan [Braves] – Rookie League Player/Coach

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Rehab: Lewis Thorpe (Twins),

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Recently Released:

Ryan Battaglia [Indians],

John Hussey (Padres),

Travis McDonald (Reds)

James Philibossian (Tigers),

Adam Silva [Yankees],

Hayden Timberlake [Astros],

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