Cancer-free Hendriks makes 1st Minor League rehab appearance

May 6th, 2023

already defeated the most dangerous opponent he'll ever face.

A Minor League rehab assignment? That's nothing but another day at the office ... even if it was anything but.

Pitching in live game action for the first time in 214 days and two weeks removed from announcing he was cancer free, Hendriks tossed a perfect bottom of the seventh inning for Triple-A Charlotte, which was blanked by Gwinnett, 2-0, at Coolray Field on Friday night.

Hendriks entered the game in the seventh and earned a standing ovation from fans, umpires and players from both teams. The Australia native was touched by the gestures, which actually made it harder for him to pitch.

"I went through my warmup pitches and they made a PA announcement," Hendriks said. "And both teams got out and started clapping ... don’t get me wrong, it's really, really nice and I very much appreciated it. It made me very emotional. But I'm a guy who pitches on anger and it's really hard to get angry when you know the other team is full of nice people who would do something like that."

The right-hander's first pitch -- a 91 mph fastball that sank low -- was one of nine pitches he tossed. Hendriks mixed in fastballs and sliders during his outing, topping out at 93.2 mph. He froze Joe Hudson on a 2-2 heater for his lone strikeout.

"I'm just happy to have an inning where I get three outs," Hendriks said. "The toughest thing is never the pitch count for me. It’s getting loose, getting in and getting out. I got a swing-and-miss on my fastball and weak contact on some sliders."

The appearance was the culmination of hard work, support and faith ... in himself and the doctors and nurses who treated him during his five months of therapy.

"My wife made me realize how big this is for a lot of people," Hendriks told reporters after the game. "She told me it's more about overcoming something extreme and what getting back on a mound so quickly represents to people going through this right now. It’s a lot bigger than just me."

Diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in December, Hendriks formally announced his condition on Jan. 8 and started his first treatment the next day. He was back on the mound three weeks later and continued his chemotherapy treatments throughout the winter. The 34-year-old finished off his final round of chemo on April 5, ringing the "victory bell" on his way out.

Hendriks made a defiant and victorious statement on his Instagram page two weeks later:

“REMISSION. It’s official. I’m cancer free.”

He's now back on the mound and with a potential return to the Majors in clear view, he's eager to continue his work.

"We’re underway and we’re off to the races," he said. "It was definitely a test run and now I know what to do. It will be interesting to see how it goes in Chicago."