Henry shows progress with slider (with one Ohtani exception)

July 1st, 2023

ANAHEIM -- As he was sitting in the dugout, his work done for the evening, D-backs starting pitcher  knew what was coming his way.

The left-hander had turned in one of the finest performances of his career, holding the Angels to one run over 5 2/3 innings in what would become a 6-2 D-backs victory at Angel Stadium on Friday night.

“My phone is going to be blowing up,” Henry said to one of his teammates.

No, Henry wasn’t referring to congratulatory texts, though he no doubt will get some of those, he was talking about a slider he hung right in the middle of the plate in the fifth inning.

The one that Shohei Ohtani connected with and sent 493 feet into the seats in right field, the longest home run in the Majors this season.

In the clubhouse postgame, Henry answered some questions about how well he pitched. Then the subject quickly turned to the Ohtani homer.

Henry, one of the kindest and most patient players you’ll ever meet, handled them all with grace and humor.

“I mean, I don’t know if there’s much to say,” he said. “Falling behind 1-0 to a guy like that. … I tried to get back in the zone, and throwing a hanging slider over the middle of the plate was not in the game plan. So that’s what happens.

“If you’re going to give them up, you’re going to give them up. And thanks to the offense, it was a five-run lead at that point. So it was kind of just let the water roll right off the back and get right back at it. That was kind of the mentality afterwards.”

Henry knew as soon as the ball left his hand that it was not going to where he wanted it and that it was going to be trouble.

He was asked if it looked to him like the ball traveled 493 feet.

“It was loud,” Henry said of the sound of the ball hitting Ohtani’s bat. “I'll leave it at that. I didn't watch it. I don't really like to watch home runs. It didn't feel good leaving the hand. It was just kind of one of those pitches. Thankfully, I didn't watch it. I just heard it.”

In his past two starts, Henry has allowed only three runs over 11 2/3 innings. One of the biggest keys for him over that stretch has been the improvement of his slider.

“Obviously, you know, I threw a bad one today late in the game [to Ohtani],” Henry said, “but outside of that, it has consistently gotten a little bit better each time out and the confidence in that is growing, as well.

“Now it's becoming a pitch I'm throwing to both sides, can throw in any count I feel like and I think hitters having to consider that opens up other doors. So if I had to put my thumb on it, without diving into it too deep, that's probably my hunch.”

Whatever the reason, the D-backs couldn’t be happier about the progress that Henry continues to make. With Merrill Kelly out for at least two weeks with a blood clot in his lower right leg, Arizona needs someone else to step up.

On Friday, Henry did just that, showing his talent on the field and his grace and humor off it.