Athletics

Liam Hendriks' shift in energy big factor in surging success with A's

Liam Hendriks' shift in energy big factor in surging success with A's

You feel it.

Whether you're witnessing it in person or watching it on a screen, the energy a pitcher exudes once he sends the batter to the dugout with no apologies, no reparation. It's magnetic.

You feel it.

A's Australian-born pitcher Liam Hendriks isn't an exception to the rule, as a matter of fact, he's the lesson. 

Call it confidence, call it arrogance -- whatever your term is, it's survival of the fittest on the diamond. 

Hendriks detailed some of this mentality in the latest Momentum documentary: "Resiliency: The Road to Becoming an All-Star."

But I wanted to know more.

When you approach Hendriks in his workout shorts. His curly hair is a bit disorderly, he's calm and approachable. But that's not who he is when he's on the bump. He's on one side of the battle of the egos -- and he's going to win.

"For me, it’s just convincing myself that no matter what, I’m better than you," Hendriks told NBC Sports California. "So it’s not necessarily arrogance, it’s just extreme confidence. But for me, if I have to think ‘Oh I can’t throw it here, because that’s where they’re good,' that’s where I get in trouble. So for me, it’s just convincing myself that I’m better than whoever is at the plate."

The hitter has the same mentality which turns into the ultimate matchup. The loser oftentimes is he or she who doubts themselves.

"You need to have that confidence and arrogance going out there to be like 'It doesn’t matter, I’m gonna win this battle no matter what,'" Hendriks said.

"No matter what I throw, if I’m convicted and I believe that I’m better than them I’m gonna get it done."

Twelve-year pitching veteran Peter Moylan has been enjoying watching Hendriks taking care of batters and the journey he took to get to his All-Star season.

"I think what we do have in common is absolutely f-----g loving to prove people wrong," Moylan said. "I was told I was done so many times in my career and I'm sure he has heard it too."

But Moylan's approach on the rubber is a bit different from Hendriks' animalistic attitude, and he compared the closer's mindset to that of another Aussie, Grant Balfour. Moylan had to find a sense of stillness.

"It's what works for them," Moylan added. "I needed to stay under control and calm when I pitched."

Hendriks agreed that there are times he needs to remain calm as well.

But there's always time for this ... 

"I love watching Liam blow a stack after the third out," Moylan added. 

That intensity makes a difference.

"When you go out on the mound, there's a certain level of -- kind of raising testosterone that you kind of have to have to go out there and repeat against other guys that are doing the same thing," Chicago White Sox reliever Evan Marshall said.

"You have the mentality of going out there for your family, you just have to find little motivations that can drive you to push harder."

He also said slamming a couple of RedBulls helps.

"Caffeine's big in the bullpen, all bullpens sponsored by RedBull ... and Excedrin," he laughed.

He echoed Hendriks' sentiment.

"They can't beat me," Marshall explained. "My stuff is better than them."

And if it's bad out on the field, the bullpen feeds off of it.

"Like yesterday, we had a bullpen day, and we only gave up one run to the Twins who set the home run record this year, so one after another we were just kind of running out there like 'It's my turn to do my job and set it up for the next guy.'"

Then, Marshall made it rather simple.

"But while you're out there it's time to, I dunno, rage."

[RELATED: A's playoff chances with nine games remaining]

You can rage, sure. But where's the line between cocky and confident?

Dallas Braden notices the difference.

"You’re confident as you move through the world," he said. "Confident as you move through the clubhouse. You’re cocky as soon as you take the mound because -- how can you not be? If you’re Liam Hendriks toting around 100 miles per hour how can you not be?"

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media Tuesday and addressed some additional questions surrounding the Astros' cheating scandal. One topic in particular touched on the safety of Mike Fiers.

The A's pitcher was at the base of bringing the Astros' sign-stealing to surface by going on the record in a November interview with The Athletic.

After exposing Houston, Fiers received scrutiny, mainly from Astros fans. Manfred, who appeared to be aware of what the pitcher had been enduring, wanted to make sure he was working toward a plan for his safety.

But Fiers isn't sure how they would be able to protect him, he told The Athletic's Alex Coffey on Wednesday.

“I’m not asking for extra security," Fiers said in the interview. "I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games, and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”

The A's will host the Astros during their second series of the season at the Coliseum in Oakland, beginning on March 30.

It'll be tense.

The A's will head to Houston not soon after that at the end of April and then another time in May and in July. All eyes will be on Fiers, whether he's on the bump at Minute Maid Park or not.

He knows the attention will be on him. 

"Listen … everyone’s mad at (the Astros)," he said. "There are teams that are mad. It doesn’t matter what it is, extra protection, I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do.”

He's doing his best to concentrate on doing his job as a pitcher in a highly-anticipated season for the A's, but it's not that easy. Teammates have shown him what's being said on social media, which surely makes him uncomfortable. Since he addressed the media at the end of January during media day, he stressed the fact he didn't want to distract his teammates.

[RELATED: Fiers feels 'ahead of schedule' despite distractions]

Those teammates, and manager Bob Melvin, stood right by him as more and more information spilled out on the scandal.

He knows there will be repercussions, we all do. But those shouldn't start, or end, with him. 

What makes Matt Chapman is so confident in self, A's for 2020 season

What makes Matt Chapman is so confident in self, A's for 2020 season

OAKLAND -- There was a sense of confidence among A's players and manager Bob Melvin as they trickled into media day.

BoMel said it was the most excited he has been about the team since he has been with the A's, and it's no different for two-time Platinum Glove Award winner Matt Chapman, but he had to embrace the tough ending to 2019 first.

"We were really sad, and then for a while, it was pretty quiet," Chapman told NBC Sports California at the end of January. "But then, we all kind of turned the page a little bit and started appreciating everything accomplished -- and we were getting excited for next year."

Chappy made it clear the one-and-done post-season experience the team faced over the past two years is not going to become a trend. He is adamant there will not be a repeat of that in 2020.

"We're going to take it to the next level," he said. 

And it'll begin with the young arms, he went on.

"I think it starts with all of our young pitching that is getting more mature," Chapman added.

Top left-handed pitching prospects A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo likely will be a part of that starting rotation this upcoming season.

Luzardo, although limited to a small sample size, posted a 1.50 ERA and 0.667 WHIP over six games and 46 batters faced in 2019. Puk, who also made his highly-anticipated MLB debut last season, came out of the bullpen and in 11 1/3 innings posted a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts.

Oakland will also get a full season of Frankie Montas, who missed a chunk of time in 2019 after violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Veteran Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea are set to join the starting rotation as well.

"It's like the first time we've had a set rotation, and it's guys we really trust, guys that have been tested," Chapman said. "We've had rotations, but we've always had guys go down, or this or that, it's like -- we have a five-man rotation with [Chris] Bassitt in there as well as a sixth, or a bullpen guy, whatever we need."

"They all have insane stuff," Chapman added. 

Chapman included the defensive and offensive game as two additional things for the team to have confidence in.

"Our pitching is only getting better, and I think our hitters are only going to get more polished, we're just going to be more mature -- we have more experience," he said. "The more at-bats you can give those guys, the better. The bullpen is only going to get better."

[RELATED: Fiers feels 'ahead of schedule,' despite distractions

"I think we're just a really, really good young, well-rounded team."

It was also something new and exciting for Chappy to be able to look around the clubhouse and recognize most of the players this time around.

"I just have the confidence in our whole team -- we know what to expect," Chapman said. "Instead of starting from scratch, we can kind of just build on what we have, the momentum."