When Oakland A’s pitcher Liam Hendriks steps on the mound Wednesday night to face the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game, he’ll make history for his country.
The 29-year-old reliever, of all positions, will be the first player from Australia to start a MLB postseason game.
“It’s definitely an honor. Any time you get to put baseball on the forefront in Australia, it’s a good thing,” he said after the A’s announced he would make his appearance in inning No. 1 before turning to a more traditional starter.
The unorthodox move to allow a reliever to open the game boils down to which players are available.
“The reason that we started looking at this is because we’ve had so many injuries in our rotation, and we’re just trying to do the best possible thing that we think for a particular day,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’re just trying to do what’s best for us…. We’re trying to figure out who goes where to benefit the strengths of our team.”
No one knows for sure just how long we’ll see Hendriks at the helm, but he’ll surely enjoy the pitch count he does get.
After all, he spent two months in the minor leagues after being cut from the 40-man roster in June. He started eight games for the A’s in September, but he doesn’t have any regular season wins under his belt.
Hendriks was just one of three players born in Australia in the Major Leagues in 2018.
“The more success guys like me, (Tigers reliever) Warwick Saupold or (Braves reliever) Peter Moylan have had this year, it’s definitely kind of helped push that agenda a little bit more in Australia…,” he said. “I may be the first, but I’m hoping I won’t be the last. We’ve got a bunch of young guys coming up, and hopefully they get a chance to do it.”
And what better location for Hendriks to get his chance than New York City, the original Land of Opportunity?