Athletics In the Cards Baseball
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Liam Hendriks has put his trust in tarot cards and an energy healer named Rubi.
Given how reliable this versatile reliever has been for the Oakland Athletics, nobody is about to question what's working.
Manager Bob Melvin has gone with Hendriks as his ninth-inning option night after night, and is thrilled for the intense right-hander who has finally found his spot in the bullpen.
Never one to stick with tradition and frustrated over his play last season in Triple-A, Hendriks searched for a way to transform his mental approach.
Enter Rubi Rios.
"Talking to my wife's tarot card reader really helped. She's phenomenal," he said. "She does a great job. She's done a couple readings for me and it really helped me open my eyes a little bit."
A year later, Hendriks emerged as an unlikely All-Star.
The 30-year-old Aussie has adjusted to being an opener and a closer. He has worked plenty between the first and last innings, too.
He even got designated for assignment on June 25 last year — he has been through it almost a half-dozen times now — then started the A's playoff game at Yankee Stadium just more than three months later.
"Mentally, I'm in a good spot. I've taken a different mindset to look a little more positively and have less expectations," Hendriks said. "I was expecting something, and if it didn't happen then I would get inside my own head 'woe is me' and all that sort of thing. ... Right now, I'm just going out there, if they want me to throw the seventh, sixth, eighth, ninth, I'll be ready no matter what."
Rios accompanied Hendriks and his wife on Oakland's trip to New York this past weekend. Hendriks blew a save Sunday in the Bronx, surrendering consecutive home runs in the ninth and took a 5-4 loss. That left him at 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 17 saves with 101 strikeouts entering Tuesday night's series opener at home against the Angels.
He now looks at his failures as chances to grow.
In last fall's AL wild-card game, Hendriks gave up a costly home run to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. During Oakland's last homestand, he struck out Judge during a key spot and finished with a five-out save. Hendriks was not about to let the wild-card game weigh on him.
"You see what the guy has done, you see what he's been able to do," he said. "And, at the end of the day, he's just another guy with a number and a bat."
Rios is based in Los Angeles. She and Hendriks' wife became friends on Instagram. The pitcher says he did some readings last year with her when he was in Triple-A.
"She's been pretty accurate with everything she's had," Hendriks said.
Rios tries to pinpoint her clients' challenges — grief, pain, work, personal issues. She doesn't aim to change minds. She just wants her clients to "embrace the ability to accept my tools and techniques."
"Healing is a never-ending process and as long as clients understand that then I can work with them," Rios said. "We may uncover triggers, blocks and find solutions, but in all reality there is always something we have to work on ourselves. ...
"I believe that if a client has reached a point where change needs to happen, being open minded to any healing method whether it be with tarot cards or energy healing there comes a time when you have to just take that opportunity to see if any change can occur."
As an opener last season and again early this year, Hendriks took on whatever job Melvin gave him.
"You embrace all kinds," the manager said. "If that helps you, I'm all for it. Stand on your head, I don't care what you have to do to be successful. He reads a lot of different things. He's gotten real cerebral and he's finding what works for him. If spirituality is a part of that, then more power to him."
Hendriks is closing in on his career-high in innings — 85 1/3 in 2012 as a starter for Minnesota.
Hendriks reads thick novels at his locker before games. Recently it was "Dark Age" by Pierce Brown.
"I just like to zone out a little bit, get lost in a different world," he said.
It keeps him grounded during the highs and lows of a long season. The tarot card readings allow him to think differently about outcomes.
"Triple-A last year was humbling," he said. "She told me the cards and I was more concerned with the meaning, whether it was face up, face down, upside down and all that. I just think it's a better mindset. Whether I'm all gung ho believing it or not, it's something that helped me get out of a funk."
Teammate Tanner Roark is fully open to the card readings.
"When you know you have the stuff to pitch here or to play here, you have to then get that mental part right. Whatever calms you, whenever you go out there on the field and it's your time to pitch, you turn that switch on and it's game over and you have that right attitude."