After starting at second, Henderson lifts Norfolk to walk-off win

August 21st, 2022

The headline about the beginning of ’s night centered around his starting defensive position. By the end of it, he’d once more made it about his bat.

Baseball’s No. 2 overall prospect roped a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th to add to a homer and double -- all while getting his first professional start at second base -- as Triple-A Norfolk edged visiting Durham, 8-7.

“I was notified this morning that I was going to come in and do a little bit of early work at second base,” Henderson said after the win. “They told me I’d play there today and tomorrow possibly. Just went in there and got some good work in, and I felt pretty comfortable.”

If anyone was concerned that a position change would affect the versatile defender at the plate, Henderson allayed those worries quickly. The top Orioles prospect ripped a two-run double to right in the bottom of the second inning and clobbered his 19th homer of the season -- and 11th at Triple-A -- to right in the fourth.

“I ended up going down like 1-2, 0-2, something like that,” he recalled of his at-bat against Durham reliever Phoenix Sanders. “I had a pretty big swing on the curveball, so I had a good feeling that he was probably going to try to throw it again to get me to overswing. I was trying to just keep my weight back, got it up in the air, and it went out.”

Throughout the evening, Henderson felt good in the infield, though he didn’t get much work at second base.

“I didn’t get any groundballs but did have a double play, so I got to work on the turn, received it from shortstop,” he said. “I worked on that a little bit earlier, but that was about all the action I got.

“If I play there tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll have some action.”

Henderson had played one game at second base previously in his pro career, though he didn’t start there, last July 21 with High-A Aberdeen. Having played third and short almost exclusively coming into this season, Henderson has now spent his last three games at first or second.

“At shortstop, when I’m at that certain depth on the other side of the bag, I’m able to kind of have that same replication,” he said of the double-play turn. “I can pretty much approach it like a second baseman, so that wasn’t too much of a change.”

The Tides carried a four-run lead to the ninth, when the Bulls fought back to force extra innings. Henderson came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th with the score knotted at seven.

“I was looking to just hit something to the left side because they were shifting me and had three or four infielders on the right side of the bag,” he said. “I was just trying to stay through the ball and do a job to get that runner home.”

With automatic runner Adam Hall having already moved to third base, Henderson delivered.

“He went with a heater, top shelf, and I fouled it off,” he said of Durham reliever Tommy Romero. “Then he tried to go heater in again, and in the previous at-bat that Cadyn Greiner had, when he was 3-2, [Romero] went all heaters because he didn’t want to walk him. I just said ‘be heater timing’ and was able to stay inside of it and got the job done.”

Henderson batted .312/.452/.573 in 47 games to start the year with Double-A Bowie before being promoted to Norfolk. After hitting .324/.446/.608 in 20 games with the Tides in June, Henderson saw Triple-A pitchers adapt. His July line was .257/.353/.473 in 20 games. Now through 17 August contests, he’s back to .292/.370/.500.

“It took a little bit of an adjustment,” he said. “After a few weeks, they figured out a good way to pitch me, and I felt like I just had to really hone in on taking those close pitches. I was starting to get a little bit bigger, trying to do some more damage swinging at pitches that were off the zone. I had to get back to what got me there.”