Despite a busy minor league schedule, Twins pitching prospect Liam Hendriks took the time on Wednesday to answer some questions. Below is the interview.
Despite signing with the Twins as an undrafted free agent in 2007, you have been one of the more effective pitchers in the organization. What reasons can you give for your success so far?
Hard Work. Being an Australian, I was only eligible to sign as a free agent but it is a lot harder being a free agent than it is if you were drafted. You don't really know where you stand compared to other players so you just have to go out and do what you can. I've been brought up knowing that there is nothing better than hard work and thats how I still operate over here and lately its really been paying off for me. Hopefully I can keep it up for a while longer.
You underwent back surgery a couple years ago which resulted in you having to miss the entire 2008 season. How did you manage to come back from such an injury and remain effective?
Yeah, that is right. I had spine surgery at the end of the 2008 season. The rehab was only 6 weeks long and all I could do for it was wait and see how it turned out. It did give me a chance to pitch back in Australia and get some coaching from ex-major leaguer in Graeme Lloyd. He helped me to improve my change-up and slider which were effective pitches for him when he played.
Would you say you fit the mold of a 'Twins pitcher?' Your statistics may support that notion, but how do you feel about that from your standpoint?
I would like to think so. The mold of a Twins pitcher in my view is a pitcher who throws strikes, doesn't walk too many, throws a change-up and forces contact.
I feel I fit that mold especially as I pride myself on throwing strikes and not walking too many people.
Was there as reason why you decided to sign with the Twins rather than another organization?
They had and still have one of the best farm agencies in all of baseball and that really appealed to me. I did not want to be skipping organizations like others have.
There were also a few Australians with the twins as well so that helped it made it easier to come over here and get accustomed to a different country.
You have had a pretty dominant 2010 season so far in comparison to your 2009 season. What are the reasons for your success?
As I said earlier, hard work. I really pushed myself this off season to stay in shape and keep my arm fresh. I didn't even pick up a ball until January and I think that rest for my arm definitely helped.
Having pitched at both levels so far, what type of differences have you seen between Low-A and High-A so far during your 2010 season?
The High-A hitters don't swing at as many balls as they do in Low-A. You can't get away with as much up here either. You need to make quality pitches time after time or else you will get burned. I've noticed that you really need to change speeds a lot more here than in Low-A. Keep the hitters off balanced and make it hard for them to put a good swing on the ball.
You have always gotten more ground ball outs than fly ball outs during your professional career. Is this a product of the type of pitchers you choose to throw, or has the Twins organization made it a point of emphasis to put sink on the baseball – resulting in more ground balls?
I throw a 2 seam fastball that sinks only a little bit but I think that is what gets most of my ground balls as well as the slider. It is just the way I throw. I don't try and get them, but I do try and keep the ball low and off the middle of the plate and I think if i do that, more ground balls will come from it.
Do you pay attention to prospect rankings and such? Most experts did not have you in the Twins Top 10 going into this season, but your performance so far could dictate a jump in those rankings. Is that something you and other prospects pay much attention to?
It doesn't really bother me. Of course it would be nice to be mentioned in them. I just try and do what I have to do and then as long as the Twins think I am doing well thats all I want. Seeing my name in a list such as that would definitely be a compliment – I won't lie there, but if not, I can live with it and try and work hard to get there the next year.
Is there a specific Twins pitcher, or pitcher in general that you attempt to model yourself after?
Not really. Each person is different, so they need to pitch in different ways. I do like to watch Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker pitch though. They aren't over powering like myself, but are strike throwers and battle every time they step on the mound. It is interesting to watch what they throw in different counts in different situations to each hitter.
Being on the road quite a bit, do you get the opportunity to sit down and watch the Twins?
It is tough even when we are playing at home; the games coincide a lot so by the time we get home it is hard to watch them. I did spend 3 years in extended spring training playing early games and I got to watch a few then.
More often, pitchers are beginning to analyze themselves through the world of statistics. Have you found yourself doing the same, or do you rely on your catcher, coaches, and scouting reports to provide that information for you?
I would be lying if I said I didn't keep track of my stats, but it doesn't effect my pitching at all. I compare myself to others in the league just to see how I shape up to the rest. When I step foot in the clubhouse on the day of my start, I get into my routine and stats don't come into my mind at all - other than hitters of that day and who to be careful with.
Do you have a goal in mind as far as when you want to reach the major league level?
Not really. I just take it as it comes; keep trying to do my best and see where it goes. I am hoping to stay on track for one level a year and if I am lucky enough to stay here this year and be able to play in AA next year, I will be on track for that.
Thanks to Liam Hendriks for taking the time to do an interview with Inept Ullger.