In the bottom of the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night, the words Chicago White Sox fans had longed to hear all year finally arrived over the PA system: “Liam Hendriks is warming in the White Sox bullpen.” Less than five months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, after months of treatment and weeks of building his body back up to be in Major League shape, Chicago’s All-Star closer finally made his remarkable 2023 season debut, and the South Side made sure to show their appreciation:
HERE HE COMES— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 30, 2023
Less than 5 months after being diagnosed with cancer, Liam Hendriks is back on the mound for the White Sox pic.twitter.com/QEwPDvETu1
Hendriks ran out to the mound for the top of the eighth, taking a moment to compose himself amid raucous applause for delivering a first-pitch strike to Angels catcher Matt Thaiss (who made sure to delay entering the box to prolong the standing ovation). The righty was understandably a bit rusty, allowing a base hit to Thaiss and eventually allowing two runs on a sac fly, a bloop double and an RBI single from Mike Trout, but the box score was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.
“This is just bigger than the game itself,” manager Pedro Grifol told reporters. “What he’s done and how he’s done it has been remarkable. It’s an inspiration to everybody on this club, it’s an inspiration to everybody who follows the game and knows about Liam.”
Hendriks had established himself as one of the game’s premier relievers, first with the Oakland Athletics and then with Chicago after signing with the White Sox as a free agent in January of 2021. The Australia native has been an All-Star in three of the last four years, posting a 2.26 ERA and 114 saves over that timespan with a whopping 359 strikeouts in 239 innings. His return is big for a White Sox team looking to climb back into the AL Central race after a slow start, but more importantly, it’s an inspiration to people everywhere.