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Hendriks named an All-Star for first time

@DKramer_
July 5, 2019

SEATTLE -- Liam Hendriks has to cancel plans for a getaway with his wife to Big Sur, Calif., next week because he’ll be in Cleveland on Tuesday. Hendriks is headed to his first All-Star Game, and he will go as just the third Australian-born player selected to the Midsummer Classic.

SEATTLE -- Liam Hendriks has to cancel plans for a getaway with his wife to Big Sur, Calif., next week because he’ll be in Cleveland on Tuesday. Hendriks is headed to his first All-Star Game, and he will go as just the third Australian-born player selected to the Midsummer Classic.

Hendriks replaced Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton on the American League roster, Major League Baseball announced Friday. Morton is in line to start on Sunday, meaning he won’t be available on just one day’s rest.

At this time last year, Hendriks had just been outrighted to Triple-A Nashville, where he spent two months before returning to the A’s as a September callup. Hendriks said that he didn’t even watch the All-Star Game last year, except for the inning that Blake Treinen pitched.

“I'm just ready to soak it in,” Hendriks said. “I'm not really expecting anything. I was talking to Blake a little bit. There's going to be a lot of [autograph] signings. There are going to be a lot of people pulling me in a lot of directions, but for me, I'm just going to go out there and embrace it.”

A nine-year veteran who is in the midst of a career year, Hendriks has blossomed into the best weapon in the A’s bullpen, having moved into a closer role over the past two weeks while Treinen recovered from a right shoulder strain. Hendriks has an MLB-best 0.96 ERA as a reliever. He’ll remain the ninth-inning specialist for now while the A’s work Treinen back via lower-leverage situations.

Overall, among MLB relievers, Hendriks ranks fourth in strikeouts (58), fifth in innings pitched (46.2) and fifth in opponents' slugging percentage (.261). He currently has a career-high and A’s season-high-tying 14 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings streak. Hendriks has not allowed a run in 26 of his past 28 appearances. And Friday’s announcement comes just days after Hendriks was named the AL Reliever of the Month for June.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the 30-year-old Australian, who last June 25 was designated for assignment by Oakland. It was over last season’s final month that Hendriks began his resurgence. In that stretch, Hendriks limited hitters to a .423 OPS, while giving up just two earned runs in 12 outings, which led Oakland to use Hendriks as an opener in their 7-2 loss to the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game.

“It's been a whirlwind, for sure, don't get me wrong,” Hendriks said. “But I think it was almost a necessary evil for me to go down there and kind of gain perspective and get rid of the ego and be like, 'OK. It doesn't matter. Regardless of how I'm pitching, I don't deserve to pitch in whatever role. I'm just going to go out there and pitch whatever inning they want me to.' ... Just that change of mindset has helped me to come where I am now.”

Hendriks joins third baseman Matt Chapman as Oakland’s All-Star representatives. MLB also announced on Friday that Indians starter Shane Bieber will replace Rangers starter Mike Minor on the AL All-Star roster, and Dodgers infielder Max Muncy will replace Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon on the National League roster. Hendriks joins the Indians’ Brad Hand and the Astros’ Ryan Pressly as the AL’s only relievers. The other two Australian All-Stars were the Brewers’ Dave Nilsson in 1999 and the A’s Grant Balfour in 2013.

The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on Tuesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.

Blackburn recalled, Anderson optioned

One day after Tanner Anderson ballooned his pitch count to 94 over 4 2/3 innings, which led to an early departure, the righty was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday. Right-hander Paul Blackburn was recalled in a corresponding move.

Blackburn has made just one appearance for Oakland this season, having served as the club’s 26th man for a doubleheader against the Rangers on June 8, when he gave up five runs in three innings. Blackburn is a Pacific Coast League All-Star this season for his work at Triple-A, where he owns a 5.26 ERA and 7-1 record in 15 starts.

Blackburn believes he’s corrected a mechanical flaw that led to his arm creating too much drag, which sacrificed his arm-side command, particularly with his fastball. The issues became more illuminated given his cross-body delivery.

“Ever since then, it's been good,” Blackburn said. “I feel good. The ball is coming out good. I feel normal. I feel like I can put the ball where I want it.”

Anderson’s outing on Thursday proved to be the latest challenge for the 26-year-old, who is 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in five outings with Oakland. The A’s wound up rallying to a 7-2 win over the first-place Twins, thanks to Marcus Semien’s career-high five RBIs, but the club was forced to turn to its taxed bullpen early.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.