When I spoke with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos last Friday he was more than willing to dish out complements towards Liam Hendriks. In my mind it cannot be a coincidence that he made the trip when Hendriks was on the mound, and he was clearly impressed with what he saw. The team has stayed quiet on who will take the ball this Saturday, but after what he has done Hendriks has to be the front runner.
"It was definitely good to lay eyes on him," said Anthopoulos, "Liam definitely put himself into the mix". His 1.48 ERA through his first seven starts ranks second in the league, while his remarkable .80 WHIP is second-to-none.
These stats are the result of major strides that he has taken mentally. As a sinker ball pitcher throwing in the low 90’s he won’t be striking out that many batters, but he has proven he can still be effective. The key to his success is aggressiveness; he has just three walks in 48.2 innings which is almost unheard of.
"It’s not necessarily about the radar gun and how hard someone throws, it’s about how they pitch and get people out, and he does a pretty good job of it," said manager Gary Allenson. "He pitches good with guys on base, and limits the damage. He deserves the look".
In the past he has made it to the majors but had limited success. After the struggles he suffered through last year his wife sat him down and told him to just be himself, and now with a fresh perspective he is pitching lights out.
"I have just come out here and taken a new mindset to everything, and have been throwing everything for strikes and getting hitters off balance," he explained.
From what I saw Hendriks is a guy that really just pounds the zone. He has the stuff to be able to pitch to contact well, and his control allows him to stay down out of the middle of the plate. This formula can certainly translate to the next level as long as he stays confident. If the Jays do make the move to bring Hendriks up it could be with the intentions of using him simply as a "band aid" until Marcus Stroman is ready.
With that said Hendriks has been working as a dark horse for much of his career and for his name to even be in this conversation is impressive. If he continues to pitch the way he has down in Buffalo all year he may leave the Jays no choice but to keep him up in some capacity.