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Minnesota Twins: Okay, Really, When Is Liam Hendriks Going to Win a Game?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 7: Liam Hendriks #62 of the Minnesota Twins looks on during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on September 7, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Indians defeated the Twins 7-6. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Tom SchreierCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2012

The waiting is the hardest part/
Every day you see one more card/
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart/
The waiting is the hardest part

The Waiting – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

***

Every time Liam Hendriks makes a start it’s the same story:

What will it take him to get win No. 1?

It remains compelling because, well, usually when a player doesn’t win he gets sent down to Triple-A, is traded or is outright waived.

But Hendriks remains in a Twins uniform.

One of my readers, Joh Norland, hit it on the head in my last Hendriks article:

The irony is that he likely will become a good pitcher, and for the most part he has pitched well through much of his year. Franky (former starter Francisco Liriano) comes to mind, great stuff, lots of shutout innings... lots of losses when a minor meltdown happens.

That’s the thing, Hendriks has stuff, ask anybody: manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson or your mother, brother, grandmother (in that order).

They’ll all tell you the same thing: The dude’s got stuff.

The problem is that he has yet to achieve any consistency and it’s been 17 starts.

Seventeen.

***

It’s fitting that Drew Butera was his catcher on Thursday night.

After all, Butera was the guy the Twins had catch Liriano before shipping him off to the Chicago White Sox.

Butera is a straight shooter, has quiet confidence and a calming presence.

He’s a perfect complement to a mercurial pitcher.

Hendriks hit the skids early in Thursday’s game.

“I was kinda pressing a little bit,” he admitted after the game.

He got the leadoff guy, David Lough, to ground out to short, but otherwise got hit around in the first inning.

Alcides Escobar singles off him.

Alex Gordon is walked.

Salvador Perez extends his hitting streak to 17 with a single and drives in Escobar and Gordon with one out.

“I’ve thrown him good pitches,” he said, “and he just throws the bat at the ball and it worked for him."

“Yeah, it’s frustrating.”

Mike Moustakas singles to right.

Anderson goes to the mound.

“Andy came out and just goes, ‘Look you gotta have fun,’ said Hendriks. “’Just go out there and have fun.’”

I’m sure Anderson’s first words were, “What the hell is going on here?”

Whatever he said worked because Lorenzo Cain grounded out to third to end the inning.

“After that I felt good, felt loose and everything was flowing well,” the pitcher continued.

“I had fun out there.”

Josh Willingham cut the 2-0 lead in half with his 34th bomb of the year and then Hendriks did his thing in the second:

Eric Hosmer struck out swinging, Johnny Giavotella grounded to third and Lough (remember him?) flew out to center.

In the third he got Escobar to ground out to second, struck out Gordon and got Perez to fly out, but Billy Butler singled off of him.

So, just to clarify, the three guys that hit him around in the third were punched out like a world-class boxer, but the guy he got to ground out, Butler, reached first.

“I was a little disappointed in the first inning when he went out there,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, “he wasn’t attacking.”

“I’m sure that had something to do with it,” admitted Hendriks, “but I just feel calmer."

“I went out there and just threw the ball and didn’t worry about anything else.”

In the fourth Moustakas flies out to left, Cain singles to right-center, Hosmer walks and Giavotella grounds into a 4-6-3 double play.

Lough leads off the fifth with a triple.

Trevor Plouffe makes an impressive snag along the third base line, fires it to Morneau for out No. 1 and Gordon strikes out swinging.

“That was a really good play,” said the manager.

“He came up and made a real aggressive throw.”

Butler doubled to score Lough before Perez popped out to second to end the inning.

Hendriks was at 98 pitches.

“His pitch count has to be better than that,” said Gardenhire, “but at least we saw something there that came out of his hand pretty good the last couple of innings.”

Tyler Robertson replaced him in the sixth.

Hendriks has now made 17 starts without earning a win.

“I told him he got a half win,” joked Gardenhire. “That’s half a win.”

It’s downright perplexing.

You’ve gotta believe he’ll eventually win one, but one thing is for sure:

The waiting is the hardest part.

 

All quotes were obtained first-hand.

Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.

 

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