While names like Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, and Joakim Soria get most of the headlines among A's relievers, Liam Hendriks is proving to be a valuable member of the bullpen this season.
The easy-going Australian has allowed just one run in his first nine innings of work, giving him the second-best ERA on the team behind only Treinen, the A's All-Star closer.
Hendriks, 30, signed a one-year, $2.15 million contract this offseason to return for his fourth season in Oakland. Not all A's fans were thrilled with the decision, as Hendriks struggled for much of last year, even getting designated for assignment in June. A week later, he was outrighted to Triple-A, where he spent most of the season.
But in the month of September, Hendriks was phenomenal. The right-hander pitched 13 innings for the A's, allowing just two runs on eight hits, with 10 strikeouts. He added about four mph on his fastball after recovering from hip surgery earlier in the year, throwing it consistently at 96 mph while also mixing in his slider.
That's been the formula once again this season and it has served Hendriks well. After allowing a run in the season opener in Tokyo, Hendriks has tossed eight consecutive scoreless innings.
Hendriks has provided the A's bullpen with crucial depth. Treinen, Trivino, Soria, and even J.B. Wendelken and Ryan Buchter tend to be Bob Melvin's preferred choices in the late innings, but Hendriks has proven reliable in the middle innings, or when those other arms need rest.
Hendriks is capable of pitching multiple innings, as he has shown throughout his career. He threw two scoreless frames against the Red Sox on April 4, closing out a 7-3 victory to give Treinen a day off. This past Tuesday, Hendriks pitched the final 1 2/3 innings in Baltimore.
Of course, we should note it's very early in the season and this is a limited sample size. But when combined with his performance last September, Hendriks has allowed just three runs in his last 22 innings for an ERA of 1.23. Not a bad weapon to have as your sixth reliever.