One of the best stories from the 2023 MLB season needed Tommy John surgery. Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, who returned to the mound months after a cancer diagnosis, underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday, the team announced. He'll miss the remainder of the season while recovering from the procedure.
Hendriks returned to the majors in May just four months after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy during the offseason, completed his final round of chemo in early April, announced he was cancer-free in late April and began a rehab assignment a few weeks later.
After a few minor-league appearances, Hendriks returned to the majors May 29. Fans gave him a standing ovation and chanted his name as he took the mound. It was one of the most emotional moments of the 2023 MLB season so far.
HERE HE COMES 💚
Less than 5 months after being diagnosed with cancer, Liam Hendriks is back on the mound for the White Sox 🙌 pic.twitter.com/QEwPDvETu1
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 30, 2023
Hendriks pitched in four more games before hitting the injured list in June. His fastball velocity was down 2.2 mph compared to last season. In those five appearances, Hendriks posted a 5.40 ERA. Three of his final four appearances were scoreless outings.
The injury puts Hendriks' MLB future in doubt. The White Sox hold a $15 million team option on Hendriks, 34, at the end of this season. The surgery all but guarantees that the team will decline that option, which would make Hendriks a free agent. Teams have signed players coming off Tommy John surgery to multiyear deals in the past, though Hendriks' age could complicate matters. Even if his recovery is on track, there will be questions about how much he can contribute as a reliever in his mid-30s.
Teams should probably doubt Hendriks at their own risk, though. Given how much he overcame to get back on the mound in 2023, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Hendriks firing 97 mph heaters past hitters at the tail end of the ML season.