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Hendriks hits right spot in solid Royals debut

Righty fires seven strong frames against Twins after callup from Triple-A @KCKaegel

KANSAS CITY -- Liam Hendriks found it somewhat ironic and amusing that he found himself in a pitching matchup against Phil Hughes.

Back in early December 2013, Minnesota signed Hughes as a free agent and somebody had to go off the Twins' roster. It was Hendriks, designated for assignment.

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"When [general manager] Terry Ryan called me on the phone, he said it was a numbers thing and we would love to have you back if your clear [waivers], and everything like that. But we just signed Phil Hughes and we need a roster spot," Hendriks recalled. "It's really funny how it works out."

Hendriks has since gone from the Twins to the Cubs to the Orioles to the Blue Jays to the Royals. That's how he wound up starting for Kansas City in place of ailing Yordano Ventura in Wednesday night's 6-1 win over Minnesota.

The Royals traded third baseman Danny Valencia to Toronto for backup catcher Erik Kratz and Hendriks, a product of Australia. Royals manager Ned Yost didn't know what to expect from the 25-year-old right-hander just called up from Triple-A Omaha.

"When I first met him yesterday, a lot of guys when they first come up are a little starry-eyed, but he fit right in," Yost said.

What Yost got on Wednesday night was six shutout innings as Hendriks matched Hughes right up to the seventh when he finally yielded a run. But Hendriks retired the first 14 batters he faced, until Trevor Plouffe ripped a double down the left-field line. And when the final returns were in, it was just four hits, no walks, one run and five strikeouts in seven innings.

Hendriks got a stirring catch from Alex Gordon, who crashed into the left-field bullpen fence to catch a drive. He got some fine plays from shortstop Alcides Escobar and wide coverage from center fielder Jarrod Dyson.

"You can throw the ball over the plate. You don't have to nibble and try to strike everybody out," Hendriks said. "You can do your business and try to get quick outs because the defense is going to be there for you."

Hendriks said he clicked immediately with catcher Salvador Perez.

"Sinker, nice changeup, nasty slider, he's got some pretty good stuff," Perez said. "That was the first time I caught him and he commanded the ball on both sides of the plate pretty well. We were on the same page, he never shook me and I knew the Minnesota guys pretty good so he just wanted to go with me."

Hendriks didn't get the win, but he was happy.

"That's what I was aiming for, going seven and giving us a chance to win," he said. "I accomplished my goals, but I'm hungry for more and I want to go out and do better next time."

It might be tough to do much better.

"That's exactly what we needed," said the Royals' Mike Moustakas.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals, Liam Hendriks