Right-hander Liam Hendriks had been very good this season at Triple-A Rochester. He was 9-3 with a 2.20 ERA in 16 starts with the Red Wings in 2012. That included 82 strikeouts and just 28 walks with a WHIP of 0.98 in a team-high 106 1/3 innings.
But during a handful of starts with the Minnesota Twins, Hendriks hasn’t been able to translate that success to the major league level. He was 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA in two stints with the Twins — at the beginning of the season and again in mid-June. As a result of his struggles the second time around, Hendriks spent the past two months back at Rochester, refining his game in the minors.
Hendriks got his chance to take the mound in the majors once again, as he was called up by the Twins on Tuesday and started in Wednesday’s series finale in Oakland. Hendriks’ outing lasted just five innings and he gave up four runs on six hits in the Athletics’ 5-1 win over Minnesota. He needed 97 pitches to get through his first start with the Twins since July 2.
“(Hendriks) battled. A lot of pitches through five innings,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He didn’t locate very well, but competed. He kept the game from getting out of hand and made pitches when he had to. But not enough of them early in the game, and they just kind of pecked away at us.”
With Wednesday’s loss, Hendriks is still without a win in 13 career major league starts. He fell to 0-6 on the season and 0-8 lifetime.
After allowing a first-inning run Wednesday, Hendriks was tagged for two runs in the third inning and one more in the fourth. Cliff Pennington doubled off Hendriks to start the third, and Coco Crisp followed with a single — one of his three hits in the game. Hendriks then walked Stephen Drew to load the bases with nobody out.
Josh Reddick flew out for the first out of the inning, but Yoenis Cespedes singled one batter later to drive in Pennington and Crisp for a 3-1 Oakland lead. Those two runs would hold up, as Minnesota’s offense couldn’t back Hendriks.
“I feel like we got to him early. I think that run in the bottom of the first was a huge thing,” said Reddick, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI in Wednesday’s win. “… We’ve been battling all year against guys we haven’t seen, so it’s just one thing that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to adapt and we’ve got to watch video and pay attention to scouting reports. It’s been paying off.”
Hendriks gave up his fourth and final run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a pair of doubles. Crisp’s two-out double off Hendriks scored Josh Donaldson from third.
Hendriks was given the opportunity to pitch for the Twins when Minnesota outrighted right-hander Nick Blackburn to Triple-A on Tuesday. The 23-year-old Hendriks should get a few more starts the rest of the way in 2012 as he looks to show that he belongs in the rotation in 2013.
Wednesday wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, however.
“He’s got to locate the ball better … and get his pitches over better,” Gardenhire said. “He threw a lot of pitches. One hundred pitches in five innings is a lot of pitches. He competed. He didn’t let the innings get too out of hand. … He got out of some jams that he created for himself, so there’s a step in the right direction.”