Hendriks fired to become first Australian starter in playoff

(Reuters) – Oakland reliever Liam Hendriks will become Australia’s first pitcher to start a major league playoff when the A’s take on the New York Yankees in a wild card game and is thrilled to put baseball on the map in his home country.

Sep 21, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Liam Hendriks (16) pitches the ball against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Perth-born 29-year-old gets his start as the A’s take a “bullpenning” strategy into Wednesday’s American League wild card playoff game at Yankee Stadium after a string of injuries to their starters.

Hendriks is unlikely to pitch more than one or two innings but his elevation is a reward for perseverance after he was designated for assignment in June and cleared waivers.

“It’s an honor,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Any time you get a chance to put baseball in the forefront in Australia, it’s a good thing.

“I mean, we’re in the top 10 world rankings, and it’s pretty cool to see how baseball has advanced.

“I may be the first, but I’m hoping I won’t be the last.”

It will be Hendriks’ ninth assignment as a starter since his Sept. 1 debut following a promotion from Triple-A.

Hendriks has not allowed a first inning run in any of his eight starts, holding opponents to five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

The Yankees will arguably be the biggest game of his career to date, in the A’s biggest game of the season, with the winner scheduled to meet the Boston Red Sox in the AL Divisional Series starting on Friday.

For Hendriks, he would just take it the same as any other game.

“Taking it the same way, warming up the same as I do, trying to keep it as much as a relief appearance as I can,” he said.

“All it means is I’m just relieving in the first innings.

“It’s the same strike zone, the same guys in the box. I’m just going to go out there and do it and see how it goes.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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