What’s another minor physical issue when so many are major with the White Sox?
When it’s the closer, a little thing is a little more than that.
“We’re going to be careful with him,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Turns out Liam Hendriks served up that walk-off home run to Byron Buxton in Minnesota Sunday after tweaking his back in the clubhouse, and he hasn’t been available since, not that he was needed during an off day Monday and a 6-0 loss to the Royals Tuesday, the Sox’ eighth defeat in a row.
“Between the ninth and 10th [innings] I don’t know what happened,” Hendriks said Wednesday. “I went to grab a towel and walked slowly on the tile in cleats and just couldn’t stand up right after that. They tried to take me out and I just kept telling them no. Probably in hindsight it probably would have been a good thing. But my stubborn [butt] is going back out there no matter what.”
And pitching to Buxton no matter what, even with first base open.
“Don’t ever put anyone on when I’m on the mound,” Hendriks said.
“He’s got all the talent in the world. But I’ve been able to beat him on pitches in similar locations before in my career [Buxton was 0-for-2 against Hendriks] and I know that I trust my stuff no matter what. I’m never thinking about putting somebody on base or pitching scared, because that’s when you get into trouble.”
Hendriks was able to humbly recognize the bigness of the 469-feet blast but liked his chances knowing Buxton, who struck out three times earlier against Lucas Giolito and homered against Aaron Bummer, is a free swinger. In hindsight, a slider would have been a better option instead of a fastball.
“If I get it into a better location, he doesn’t do that much damage with it,” Hendriks said. “And then I have a chance of facing a guy who I have always had tough at-bats with, with [Luis] Arraez on deck. I’m not trying to put a guy on for a contact guy with the winning run on second base.”
Hendriks’ competitive nature and pushing it for a team that badly needed a win on the last day of a winless road trip ruled the moment, but a lot of his pitches were probably related to a back issue that crops up occasionally but often goes away quickly, he said.
“Still no excuses for what happened in that game,” Hendriks said.
As for the current April swoon, Hendriks agreed with La Russa and hitting coach Frank Menechino that players are putting too much pressure on themselves, wanting to be the guy who saves the day. They stood a good chance of breaking the skid after Dylan Cease opened Wednesday’s game with four perfect innings and was staked to a 3-0 lead.
“Just stay within yourselves,” Hendriks said. “I’m at fault as much as anybody else.
“Its been tough. The results haven’t been great. The injuries have been tough emotionally. It’s something if this happens in the middle of the year, nobody really bats an eye depending on how we’ve done before that. That’s just, it’s unfortunate it’s happening at the start. But I have complete faith in this group. We got a bunch of bench guys on this team who on any other team are starters. That’s a tribute to the talent level in this clubhouse and what we are able to do.
“Right now, it’s just, when it rains it pours. If we get those couple of dink hits that will fall in or make a pitch or a line out here and there, the entire kind of vibe changes. Talked to Jey Hey [Josh Harrison] about it yesterday. We still need to remain that cocky, that arrogant, that confident group because no matter what we know we’ve got the talent in this clubhouse and we can go on a run like more than any other team. We need to make sure we set ourselves up to full take advantage of that rather than self pitying.”