Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Liam Hendriks Deserves Another Chance

Plenty of Twins players will have things to reflect on this coming offseason. When a team has multiple 90-loss seasons in a row, changes are likely and some of those situations started to play themselves out. Minnesota needs pitchers to stand out in the final games of the season as the team tries to figure out the future.

Liam Hendriks is one player on shaky ground for 2014. The team rushed him to the big leagues as a 22-year old and struggles followed him since he got called up. Next season, he will be 25 and there is a chance the Twins remove him from the 40-man roster. As Nick Nelson wrote over at Twins Daily, Hendriks might have run out of chances.

Minnesota needs some semblance of a starting rotation for next season and there aren't any sure bets on the free agent market. This could leave a window open for Hendriks to get one more chance in 2014. It might not be a good chance but there is at least an opportunity.

The Twins jerked him back and forth between the minor leagues and the big leagues over the past three seasons. With the Twins, he has never started more than eight games consecutively and that was at the end of last season. It would be a challenge to figure out big league hitters when a pitcher isn't given the opportunity to start consecutive games. His pitches are already bottom of the rotation material and moving him up and down hasn't helped.

In 2011 at Double-A and 2012 at Triple-A, Hendriks was a very effective pitcher. He posted ERAs of under 3.00 and he averaged over six innings per appearance. Strikeouts have never been his specialty but he is most effective when he limits walks and induces ground balls. This hasn't happened at the major league level but he has shown these skills in the minor leagues.

Another reasons to keep Hendriks around is the fact he won't be arbitration eligible until the 2016 season and he can't reach free agency until 2019. This means he will be a relatively cheap player on the roster and the Twins can use the money they save on him to spend on other pieces of the roster.

Even in their recent down years, the Twins have found effective relief pitchers in various ways. One way to add to a relief pitching core is to shift starters into the bullpen. Minnesota has seen successful transitions from Glen Perkins and Anthony Swarzak and this could be a path to follow with Hendriks. Minnesota has already used him as a long-relief man at the end of 2013 and it could be a sign of things to come.

Is Hendriks going to be a key piece to the potential Twins turnaround? Likely not but it still doesn't mean that it is time to give up on him. It would have been nice for Hendriks to get more opportunities at the big league level. The team has never given him a consistent shot at sticking in the rotation and most of this has come from his ineffective pitching.

Hendriks might not be the answer to all of the Twins pitching problems and he deserves another chance to make it work in some kind of role for 2014.

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