This was a make or break year for Liam Hendriks.
The 25-year-old pitcher from Perth, Australia needed a quality season, a rebound after bounding around the waiver wire in the offseason.
He found a fresh start in Buffalo.
And now, he’s shuffling off to the Kansas City Royals.
Hendriks was traded along with Bisons’ catcher Erik Kratz to the Royals in return for infielder Danny Valencia.
The trade happened just before the Herd took the field for its game with Lehigh Valley Monday night. A two-run home run by Kevin Pillar powered the Bisons to a 4-2 win in front of 4,834 at Coca-Cola Field. The transaction was a blow for the Bisons who have won seven of their last eight games and are pushing to make their first playoff appearance since 2005.
Hendriks was the best pitcher in the International League. He was 8-1 with a league-best 2.33 earned run average. He was named the starter for the IL in the Triple-A All-Star Game where he was the winning pitcher and Most Valuable Player.
The results have been dramatically different for Hendriks from last year, when he split time between Minnesota and Rochester with mediocre numbers.
He was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays in February and assigned to the Bisons in April. He had two stints with Toronto this season, but spent the majority of the season in Buffalo, putting up those impressive numbers and working himself back into relevancy.
Hendriks credits the difference to his time with the Bisons and working with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
“Being here in Buffalo it was a turnaround,” Hendriks said. “Even my spring training wasn’t great. Working with Randy St. Claire has really helped me turn a corner from what I was last year. Just being able to talk to him about things. The coaching staff has been great here. This is probably one of the most fun clubhouses I’ve ever been in. … I’m going to miss a lot of the guys here.”
In a season that has seen 194 roster moves – a modern-era franchise record for the Bisons – Hendriks was still caught a bit by surprise with the trade.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting and new experience,” Hendriks said. “They haven’t told me where I’m going yet but I know me and my wife are pretty excited to get started again and see how this goes.”
Hendriks could go to the Royals or, more likely, to Triple-A Omaha of the Pacific Coast League. Hendriks would love to be up with the Royals, not just for the Major League job but because they will be facing his former team, the Minnesota Twins in a series that begins today.
Hendriks was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007 by Minnesota and appeared in 30 games for the Twins. He was designated for assignment by the Twins in May which began a string of stints on the waiver wire where he was picked up by the Cubs, Orioles and finally the Jays.
“I’m out of options next year so it’s kind of a make or break year for me and I feel I’ve done pretty well,” Hendriks said. “Now it’s just hoping I can get up there, stay up there and do well up there so they have a chance to see me for next year.”
Kratz split this season between the Blue Jays and the Bisons. In 27 games with Buffalo, he batted .299 and drove in 17 runs with 10 doubles and three home runs.
Valencia, 29, has played in 36 games, mostly at third base, for the Royals this season. He split time between Norfolk and Baltimore last season.
The Bisons are home tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM), opening a four-game set with Indianapolis. Sean Nolin is scheduled to start. He missed 30 games on the Herd’s disabled list with a left groin strain. He made two starts for Single-A Dunedin before rejoining the Bisons.