Hendriks expects to debut with Red Sox by Trade Deadline

February 20th, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Three-time All-Star closer was in uniform and played catch for the Red Sox on Tuesday, just minutes after passing a physical that greenlighted the two-year, $10 million contract he agreed to on Monday.

The pact includes performance bonuses that can bring the value up to $20 million and includes a mutual option for ’26, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Given that Hendriks underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 2, the big question is this: When will he debut for the Red Sox?

Hendriks didn’t flinch when asked.

“The Trade Deadline,” Hendriks said. “That's my goal. That's 12 months-ish. ... Throwing has been going well. These guys got a chance to see me throw for the first time today. They seemed pleased with what I was doing. It seems pretty normal to me and now it's just a matter of me trying to poke and prod them to let me go as fast as I can and them trying to rein me back in a safe and sane way to do things.”

It isn’t uncommon for relievers to return faster from Tommy John surgery than starters, because there’s less of a buildup in terms of pitch count.

“Obviously, he is one of those [examples where] we’ll take care of him now and he will take care of the organization toward the end of the season and next year,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “When he’s healthy, he’s really, really good.”

The timing of last year's elbow injury was especially unfortunate for Hendriks, who returned to the mound May 29 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the offseason. He made just five appearances, recording one save and posting a 5.40 ERA, before being placed on the injured list with right elbow inflammation on June 12 and eventually undergoing surgery.

“I knew [the elbow] was gone before I even started my rehab assignment. But I refused to not get back, there was no chance that I wasn't getting back,” Hendriks said. “I would have pitched left-handed to make sure I made it back last year. I've been pitching through some stuff, but that's what it is, that's what you do. You’re paid to pitch, you’re paid to go out there and do a job, and that's what I did. And now it's a matter of trying to get back, rehabbing and getting back as soon as I can to put my best foot forward and do whatever I can for these 2024 Red Sox.”

, the subject of recent trade rumors, is Boston’s current closer. He is a free agent at the end of the ’24 season.

Boston’s strong 1-2 combo of Jansen and ace setup man at the back end of the bullpen is viewed as a strength of the club.

“I feel like I can be a bridge as far as a clubhouse presence or a bullpen presence, being a supporting cast to guys like Chris Martin, Kenley and guys like that,” Hendriks said.

The Australia native even joked about how well his accent will mesh with his new environment in Boston.

“My wife loves the Boston area. Everybody speaks similar to my accent. No one pronounces their 'R's' so we’re good there,” Hendriks said. “But no, I love the area. We love walking around and being a part of that.”

The addition of Hendriks is a forward-thinking move by Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow. Though his biggest impact figures to be in ’25, a source indicated that the club expects Hendriks will be able to contribute to the ’24 team.

At his best, Hendriks is a dominant pitcher who is just one year removed from back-to-back All-Star seasons with the White Sox in 2021 and '22, posting a combined 2.66 ERA with 75 saves over the two-year span.

He ranked toward the top of many Statcast pitching metrics in 2022, including in the 99th percentile in whiff rate (41.3 percent) and the 96th percentile in expected batting average (.182). Hendriks peaked at an elite 42.3% strikeout rate in 2022, fanning 38.8% of hitters from 2019-22.

The right-hander has spent every one of his first 13 MLB seasons in the American League, debuting with the Twins in 2011 and pitching for the Royals, Twins and A’s before signing with the White Sox in free agency in January 2021.

The way Cora looks at it, Hendriks will also liven up the clubhouse.

“More energy. Louder in the clubhouse [today],” said Cora. “His story is amazing. Uplifting for everybody.”