CHICAGO — Chicago White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks returned to baseball on Monday night after a battle with cancer.
At the top of the eighth inning of the White Sox’s eventual 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, Hendriks made an emotional return after undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The announcement over the loudspeakers that Hendriks was warming up in the bullpen was met with rapturous applause and when he eventually jogged onto the Guaranteed Rate Field, the crowd in attendance was on its feet welcoming the 34-year-old back.
“Yeah, it was great being back out there,” said Hendriks during his postgame press conference. “Getting back, putting cleats on, running out, doing all that. I felt good, I felt strong, I felt comfortable out there.
“Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to get the two-strike pitch where I wanted to. It was get ahead, generally, and then struggle to put them away. There were some positives from a purely baseball aspect, but there were definitely some things to work on. Get back, be available and be ready to go tomorrow.”
Hendriks was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December before announcing it publicly in January.
He had been able to play toss and throw some bullpens in Arizona while undergoing chemotherapy and appeared in six rehabilitation appearances for the White Sox’s Minor League Baseball affiliate team, the Charlotte Knights.
Finally, on Monday, the White Sox activated Hendriks from his injury rehabilitation assignment allowing him to return to Major League Baseball action.
“Again, this is bigger than baseball, right?” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “This is about life and the diagnosis and the comeback and how he did it. And how good he was prior to [it] and how good he’s going to be afterward.
“This is just bigger than the game itself. 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.”
As he took to the field against the Angels, fans, players and officials took to their feet to welcome him back and Hendriks was afforded some time at the mound to soak it all in.
He threw 27 pitches, giving up runs to Zach Neto and Mike Trout. He eventually got Shohei Ohtani to ground out to end the inning.
“All I kept saying to him the whole time was just: ‘Do you see how loved you are?’” Hendriks’ wife, Kristi, said during her Monday media session. “‘You are loved by fans, your teammates, the community, the city of Chicago, the cities you played for previously. They are all supporting you.’”