Hendriks Ready to Put Idle Days Behind Him as Playoff Season Draws Near

John Hickey

Liam Hendriks hasn’t had much to do lately.

Coming into Friday, the Oakland closer has pitched on just two of the last 14 days. Kind of odd for a closer, but the A’s of late have either won big or lost, and in neither of those cases does Oakland manager Bob Melvin turn to Hendriks.

That changes in this final four games of the regular season. Hendriks wants to be at the top of his game in the playoffs that start next Tuesday in the Coliseum. He’s told both pitching coach Scott Emerson and manager Bob Melvin that he’d like to get into a couple of the game against the Mariners in this series, which includes a Saturday doubleheader.

“My biggest thing is that I want to get into a couple here in the next couple of days, just to get a little bit of continuity back,” Hendriks said. “And then it’s not all of a sudden having five or six days off and then all of a sudden having to pitch with the possibility of three in a row. Because that’s what takes its toll.

“I’ve already told Emo (Emerson) there’s no foot off the pedal. There’s no `Oh, don’t pitch the last day because you’ve only got a day off. I want to pitch. I want the ball. I want to do as much as I can and that may help us get a different seed.”

Right now, the A’s are most likely to face the Astros, although the Cleveland Indians or even the Chicago White Sox if Oakland was to have a big weekend against the Mariners and move from the American League’s third seed up to the second seed.

He says he and the A’s try “not to worry about it too much.”

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter too much,” Hendriks said. “We’ve got to take care of our own thing. We haven’t really been focusing too much on who we’re going to play. Obviously we’ve got possibilities out there. But we’re tying to figure it out and get our ducks in a row. To me, it doesn’t really matter.”

Ah, but it might. Hendriks admits to being a little leery of Cleveland, particularly starter Shane Bieber, who is 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and the probable Cy Young Award winner.

“I think any team that comes up against Cleveland is going to be playing for Game 2 right now,” Hendriks said. “I mean Shane Bieber is pretty much the best pitcher in baseball right now.”

And the Astros, the team that had won three straight American League West championships before being dethroned by Oakland this year, and the team that spent the offseason getting its hand slapped for its 2017 sign-stealing scandal?

“Obviously as a vindictive kind of thing, we want to take out the Astros, but I don’t care who we play as long as we get through that and head over to L.A. or San Diego.”

The AL wild card winners will move to Los Angeles’s Dodger Stadium or San Diego’s Petco Park for the next round of the playoffs.

Before that, Hendriks and the A’s have to finish out the regular season and take on the challenge of whichever team Oakland draws in the wild card round. This is a best-of-three wild card, which is good psychologically for the A’s, who have lost their last three wild card appearances when they were one-gamers, including in both 2018 and 2019. He says those experiences should help see the A’s through, but it’s a new year.

“It’s a different scenario going in there knowing that it’s not a do-or-die in the first game,” Hendriks said. “I think that could take the pressure off a lot of guys. IT changes the dynamic a little bit. It’s just going out there and making sure we take care of business on the first day.

“I don’t think that too many teams in the league can stack up against us if we’re playing our baseball.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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