Hendriks has the North Side in his corner, too

January 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- was standing on first base in the fourth inning of his Pirates’ 8-2 loss to the Cubs on Sept. 7, 2017, having singled against Cubs starter at PNC Park, when Cubs first baseman made an observation leading to one of the “coolest career moments” for the right-handed starter.

“This was before I played with Rizzo and knew him,” Taillon said during his appearance at the Cubs Convention this past weekend at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Chicago. “Rizzo kind of takes a step back and says, ‘Hey, man, this is pretty cool.’ I was like, ‘That I’m on first base?’

“He was like, ‘No, dude. Lester, you, and me -- three cancer survivors right here.’ It kind of gives me chills to think about.”

Taillon, who joined the Cubs via a four-year, $68 million free-agent deal, shared this story when asked about White Sox closer , who announced on Jan. 8 he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hendriks received instant support from MLB teams through their respective social-media accounts and from players across the game.

That includes Cubs reliever and infielder , who were White Sox teammates with Hendriks prior to the duo being traded to the Cubs for reliever on July 30, 2021. Madrigal raved about how great Hendriks has been on and off the field, while also praising his wife, Kristi, for her friendship with Madrigal and his girlfriend.

“We have had dinners with them in the offseason, and they are definitely in our prayers every night,” Madrigal said. “He’s as strong as they come. Something like this is not going to knock him down at all.

“I’m sure he’s in good spirits. I know a lot of people are rooting for him, not only the South Side but the North Side and all over baseball. He posted something the other day and there were so many people commenting from all over the country.”

Heuer was promoted to the White Sox bullpen during the 2020 season which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he worked with Hendriks’ veteran guidance in '21.

“Every day, he brings the energy. He was never sad. That’s what stood out for me,” Heuer said. “When he walked out in the fifth inning to the bullpen, he was always bringing great energy. That’s all you can really ask.

“I was trying to get underneath his wing as much as possible. He is such a great dude, and he’s very accepting of that. I tried to learn from him as much as possible, and I still do. He’s always trying to help new guys get their feel. He’s very selfless. Love Big Liam and hope he’s doing well.”

In early May of 2017, Taillon was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He returned to pitch against the Rockies on June 12, five weeks after surgery to remove his left testicle. Taillon spoke on Friday of teammates wearing shirts and wristbands with his name on it after his diagnosis and how the Rockies’ , who also received treatment for testicular cancer, reached out to him at the time.

The baseball fraternity is a competitive but strong one, with Taillon wanting to do the same for Hendriks, although they don’t really know each other very well.

“I only know him from, like, playing catch, and he’s long tossing 500 feet. I definitely don’t know him, but I would like to talk with him for sure,” Taillon said. “I got some good advice from Chad Bettis, and the advice was there is no playbook for this. If you want to step away and get away, you are more than entitled to do that.

“If you want to play catch the day after you get treatment and get your bloodwork and all that, go ahead and do it. So there’s no playbook, no script, everyone is different. I had testicular cancer, we caught it early. I was able to return prettily quickly. Looking back, maybe I returned too quickly and kind of burned out a little bit at some point. But there’s just no script for it.”