McCoy: Reds rookie makes memorable MLB debut on mound

Ryan Hendrix
Caption
Ryan Hendrix

Reliever Ryan Hendrix works 1-2-3 inning vs. Cardinals

With the nasty odor emanating from the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in recent days, Ryan Hendrix was a breath of intoxicating air Friday night in St. Louis.

It was only one game, only one inning, but Hendrix was as bright as klieg lights against the Cardinals in his major league debut.

As manager David Bell put it, “He looked as if he has been pitching in the majors for years.”

Hendrix was lifted from the team’s Taxi Squad before Friday’s game an immediately thrust into the abyss.

He took the mound in the sixth inning with the Reds trailing 5-1. Using a devastating slider that dives like a nuclear submarine, he went strikeout, fly ball, strikeout.

And his debut was done.

“I felt really comfortable out there. I almost felt like I belong here,” said the Texas A&M product, drafted by the Reds in the fifth round in 2016. “It was a crazy feeling, man. I almost couldn’t feel my legs.”

But his legs were firmly under him and afterward he said, “It’s still a blur. It still hasn’t processed.

Dragons reliever Ryan Hendrix. The Dayton Dragons lost 7-3 to the visiting South Bend Cubs at Fifth Third Field on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Caption
Dragons reliever Ryan Hendrix. The Dayton Dragons lost 7-3 to the visiting South Bend Cubs at Fifth Third Field on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Hendrix comes from a small town in Texas — Dallardville, population 350. And 15 of those residents hustled to St. Louis to watch his debut.

“Basically, about everybody from my town,” he said.

His father, Matt, played at San Jacinto Junior College, where he roomed with former New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte. And he credits dad with being the best coach he ever had.

“He was my mentor and taught me everything I know about pitching and baseball,” he said.

And his dad made a mammoth decision that most likely changed Ryan’s baseball life. He took a job in the Houston area.

“He asked me if I wanted to move with him,” he said. “I grew up in that little town (Dallarsdville) my whole life. Making that transition was really tough and he asked me, ‘Are you up for it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m totally fine.’”

Hendrix transferred to Cypress Point High School and said, “They had good baseball there and good recruiting. Honestly, if I didn’t go to that high school, I probably wouldn’t have been drafted. The town I lived in, nobody knew, no one knows where it’s at. We never had scouts or college coaches come by.”

Hendrix was impressive early in camp, but some injury issues derailed him and he didn’t get back until late during the exhibition season and made one late appearance.

“That stunk, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It was bad timing. The recovery process, though, was quick and I can’t thank the rehab guys and the athletic training staff for getting me healthy. I’m good to go and it has been great ever since.”

In addition to a knee-buckling slider, Hendrix delivers fastballs that click off at 96 and 97 miles per hour.

“Ever since I was drafted, I’ve always been a mid- to upper-90s guy,” he said. “But I had some mechanical issues the past three years. This year I really worked hard in the off-season to get back to where I was and staying healthy. And it just clicked. I didn’t expect to be in the high 90s in spring training. I worked though, and it got me there.”

And the slider?

“I’ve thrown that same grip, same slider my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never changed it one bit. As soon as I started pitching, as soon as I picked up a ball, it has been the same … the same grip and motion as my fastball. I’ve just always had it.”

Hendrix kept both balls from the strikeouts and Bell gave him the lineup card.

“I’m getting both balls signed by the manager (Bell) and the other manager (Mike Schildt) and Joe (umpire Joe West), who worked the dish.”