Hendriks, 34, is cancer free now and ready to return to the big leagues after he completes a rehab assignment which begins this weekend for Triple-A Charlotte. He’ll make four or five appearances before joining the big league club.
“As of now I have a clean bill of health,” Hendriks said in a Wednesday press conference. “I’m currently in remission.”
Diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December, Hendriks immediately took the attitude that he was going to beat it and be back on the mound in short order. He spoke in front of reporters, while teammates lined the back of the press conference room at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I never looked at it as a ‘why me thing?'” Hendriks explained. “I looked at it as ‘why not me?’ I tend to have a more rosy perspective on life than (the general population) so that was my process behind it. ‘I’ve got this. This is my next challenge.'”
Hendriks announced his diagnosis publicly in early January, beginning chemo treatments around the same time. A month later he was throwing bullpens at the White Sox spring facility in Glendale, Az.
“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I thought, ‘OK, how can I beat it?'” Hendriks said. “It was those days on the couch, not being able to move much (after chemo), those were the days you needed to dig deep and find that positive mental attitude.”
Get well wishes came in from all over the sport, helping Hendriks on those tougher days. He read one from Cubs pitcher, and cancer survivor, Jameson Taillon.
“It’s your journey. No one can tell you what to feel or what to do baseball wise,” the text read. “Do whatever you feel is right.”
That came on Jan. 30. Hendriks said within a day of that message he was back on the mound.
As he looked back at last season, he’s sure his ailment impacted him, especially late in the year. Hendriks’ ERA was a run higher in the second half than the first.
“There’s a damn well chance I pitched all of last year with lymphoma in my system,” he said. “I’d like to think that was the reason I struggled to recover at the end of the year. I was damn well limping to the finish line.”
This season, the White Sox bullpen has struggled without Hendriks, ranking 29th in ERA. The team also suffered through a 10-game losing streak which just ended on Sunday.
Manager Pedro Grifol was asked if it was a perfect time to get Hendriks back.
“To have Liam is always the prefect time,” Grifol said with a smile. “To have a game where you have to cover nine innings and now you have to cover eight. It’s not only going to help us win a baseball game, its going to help the guys who are pitching a lot.”
Hendriks had his last cancer treatment on the same day as the White Sox home opener in early April — giving him some peace of mind that the end was near.
“Knowing that that was my last treatment was a huge bonus,” Hendriks stated. “I think that would have been much harder not having an end date.”
As the news conference ended, his teammates followed Hendriks out of the room. One of them, starter Lucas Giolito, summed up the emotion of the moment. “No matter what we do as a team, this is the best news of the year,” he said.