(670 The Score) It only took his introductory media session via Zoom to get the sense that new White Sox closer Liam Hendriks will fit in well with his new teammates.
Showcasing his engaging, fun-loving personality and plenty of energy, Hendriks expressed great joy after officially signing a three-year contract with the White Sox on Friday that guarantees him $54 million. The deal includes a team option for a fourth season.
"I am just excited about being a part of this pen,” Hendriks said. “This is such a wonderful group of guys out there from what I understand. The young guys are all willing to learn and have such ridiculous stuff. I am excited to lean on them a little bit and check out some new grips. I am hoping that they can teach me some things, and I can offer them back to them the same way."
Hendriks, who turns 32 in February, was the best reliever available in free agency. He’s coming off two sensational seasons for the Athletics, posting a 1.80 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 2019 and a 1.78 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in 2020. He has a career 4.10 ERA, having authored his best seasons in the past two years amid a great turnaround.
Hendriks also brings a dominant swing-and-miss element to the mound, as he has struck out 13.1 batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons. He saved 25 games in 2019 and then 14 in this past pandemic-shortened regular season. The White Sox bullpen ranked seventh in MLB with a 3.76 ERA in 2020
Hendriks has already been in touch with new White Sox manager Tony La Russa as well.
"He has reached out a couple of times," Hendriks said of La Russa. "We had a couple of good conversations, but he said directly to me, 'We may have a good team on paper, but what it says on paper doesn't win a ring.' He reminded me it's all about that vibe in the clubhouse and making sure we all mesh.”
Hendriks expanded on his conversations with La Russa and new pitching coach Ethan Katz.
"We need an honest line of communication where it's if he sees me doing something the wrong way, he can call me out anytime,” Hendriks said of La Russa. “I have had that conversation with Ethan and Tony and other guys as well. I told them all, ‘Please tell me about any criticism and if I suck as well.’ There is a time and place for everything, and I can learn from everyone. With Tony at the helm, it’s an exciting time for Chicago sports.”
Hendriks was the man who sent the White Sox into their offseason, saving the decisive Game 3 of Oakland’s wild-card series win against Chicago on Oct. 1. As he and the Athletics faced the White Sox, Hendriks loved what he saw from his young opponent.
“Watching them in Game 3 of the series and though it didn't go their own way, they had brought in nine or 10 pitchers and they took us down to the wire,” Hendriks said. “You don't get the opportunity usually to get all nine guys to be on in one day. Every guy had plus stuff and a good attitude on the mound. I am frankly excited to be able to be a part of that now.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.