CINCINNATI -- Like so many Minor Leaguers on the rise, the lost 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic was extremely frustrating for Reds relief prospect Ryan Hendrix.
In 2019, Hendrix missed much of that campaign with a right elbow strain. But he was 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in 16 games for Double-A Chattanooga, then was added to the 40-man roster that winter. He went to big league camp in ’20 and was also added to the team’s player pool at Cincinnati’s alternate training site in Mason, Ohio.
“It was a mental grind, to say the least,” Hendrix said. “We're pitching every three days to the same hitters ... doing well, too. It's like, 'What more do I need to do?' It was a good learning experience. We had [Mike Moustakas] or Sonny Gray or Wade Miley come on down, and I talked to them after outings and really get to know where we are as pitchers. It was good.”
During his time at the alternate training site, Hendrix worked with assistant pitching coordinator Eric Jagers, who was promoted to assistant pitching coach at the big league level after Caleb Cotham’s departure to become the Phillies’ pitching coach.
Jagers helped Hendrix with the analytics of his game, and Hendrix felt it helped him improve on the mound.
“We got to know every one of our pitches -- the spin rate, the horizontal and vertical break,” Hendrix said. “Being able to use that pitching technology was big. I was able to develop a new pitch. I have a new changeup. It was good to find different grips of pitches. Really knowing myself as a pitcher from the technology was huge.”
With Spring Training set to open next month, Hendrix has an opportunity that wasn’t available last year. The Reds' bullpen has open spots, especially after closer Raisel Iglesias was traded to the Angels and setup man Archie Bradley was non-tendered. Michael Lorenzen, an important bullpen piece, could be in the rotation in 2021.
Hendrix, a fifth-round selection by Cincinnati in the 2016 MLB Draft, believes he could rise to the occasion.
“I feel like I’m right there. I’m going to go into camp, and I’m going to fight for a spot,” he said. “I think I am mentally and physically prepared to go in and earn that spot. I’ve faced the big league hitters when I was up there at camp and the alternate site. I always got good feedback from the other hitters. It’s going to be good. I feel like I’m ready to knock on the door and get going.”