NEW YORK (CBS SF) — When Oakland A’s reliever Liam Hendriks was asked Tuesday if he would be the starter against the New York Yankees in the American League Wildcard game, he leaned into the microphone and said: “I’m the one opening.”
It was a tip-off to how improbable the A’s journey has been in becoming one of baseball’s elite teams. They have done it with a pitching staff patched together after several starters were lost to season-ending injuries.
“I like the term opener, I’ll stick with that one. It’s seems to be working,” the veteran right-hand reliever told reporters. “I’m the one opening.”
It’s a role that Hendriks, who grew up in Perth, Australia, has become accustomed to over the last month of the season.
“It will be my ninth time opening,” he said. “It’s the same as many other game. I’m taking it the same way. Warming up the same as I do and keep it as much of a relief appearance as I can. All it means is I’m relieving in the first inning.”
Over his last seven games, Hendriks has made four starts. He has a 0.00 ERA with six strikeouts and one walk.
“There is no difference in the game,” he said of facing the Yankees Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s do or die but to everybody out there it’s the same strike zone, same guys in the box, you just have to go out there and do it.”
A’s closer Blake Treiner, who has emerged this season as one of baseball’s best with a 9-2 record, 38 saves, just 5 blown saves and a 0.78 ERA, said the team doesn’t focus on who will be a starter.
“I think it’s important to just focus on when your name is called to just go out and do your job,” he said. “Our job in the bullpen as players, as starters, or whatever the role may be is to get outs. That’s what we get paid to do. It’s what we have worked our whole lives to do…No matter how it (winning a game) needs to be done, it needs to be done.”
Hendriks said he was told he was going to open on Wednesday morning.
“I got told at 10:58 a.m. through a text message,” he said. “The conversation was brief but I had kinda of thought about it a little…I was preparing to be it (the starter) and I was preparing not to be it.”
And that’s the way it has been for this group most of the season — you are prepared for one role, but also prepared for another. You take one game, one day at a time.