Hen­drix back with Thun­der af­ter spring train­ing scare

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Kyle Franko kfranko@tren­to­nian.com @kj_franko on Twit­ter

TRENTON » When Jeff Hen­drix dropped by the doc­tor’s of­fice for a rou­tine phys­i­cal near the end of spring train­ing the last thing he ex­pected was to miss the first mon­t­hand-a-half of the sea­son.

Hen­drix’s doc­tor wanted him to go see a der­ma­tol­o­gist for fur­ther eval­u­a­tion of some moles he had on his body. It was there that it was de­cided he would need to have them re­moved — one from be­hind his ear, one from his arm and one from his back.

“You never know what they are tak­ing out,” Hen­drix said prior to the Thun­der’s se­ries opener against Bowie at Arm & Ham­mer Park on Thurs­day night. “It could be can­cer­ous, and any­time you hear that word it’s scary, but every­thing came back clear, so I’m very thank­ful for all of that.”

It ended up de­lay­ing the 24-yearold’s start to the sea­son. In­stead of be­gin­ning the year with the Thun­der where he slashed .333/.417/.375 in 32 games to close out 2017, Hen­drix re­mained in Tampa for ex­tended spring train­ing.

Ex­tended spring train­ing, to be frank, sucks.

“You just got to get through it and get back to be­ing com­fort­able with every­thing you’re do­ing,” Hen­drix said. “They de­cided to send me to Trenton, and I’m thank­ful to be here and now I got to start proving my­self.”

So far it’s been a slow start. Hen­drix has just one hit in his first 11 at-bats, but man­ager Jay Bell isn’t wor­ried about him.

“When­ever you go from a lower level like ex­tended spring train­ing and you’re pre­par­ing to get back to a higher level, it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult be­cause the game goes a lit­tle bit faster, the play­ers are a lit­tle bit bet­ter and so you tend to drag a lit­tle bit un­til you fi­nally catch up,” Bell said. “He’s right where he’s sup­posed to be. He looks fine at the plate, he hasn’t found his tim­ing quite yet, but he’ll be fine.”

Once Hen­drix finds that tim­ing, he’ll show fans why the Yan­kees used a fourth-round pick in 2015 on him out of Ore­gon State.

“He’s a guy that can get on base, he swings the bat pretty good, sprays the ball around and doesn’t strike out a ton,” Bell said. “He’s able to be a ta­ble set­ter. I’m go­ing to keep him up at the top of the or­der. I be­lieve in him. He’s go­ing to be re­ally good for this team.”

Hen­drix said he’s fo­cused on be­com­ing a bet­ter run­ner. He’s swiped at least 17 bases in each of his three pro sea­sons and has a career 78.7 per­cent suc­cess rate.

To bet­ter that, he first has to get on base, some­thing vi­tal if he’s also go­ing to bat at the top of the or­der.

“As long as I can find ways on base, and ob­vi­ously, I haven’t been yet, but I’m go­ing to keep work­ing on it,” said Hen­drix, who has a career .378 OBP and .712 OPS. “I got to start find­ing ways to get on and score runs be­cause as a top of the lineup guy you got to get on and you got to score.”

There’s no doubt he’ll do just that.

“I have a lit­tle more than 10 at bats now, so the more at bats the more com­fort­able you get out there,” Hen­drix said. “I’m happy to be here and I’m go­ing to con­tinue work­ing hard in every­thing I’m do­ing.”

KYLE FRANKO — TREN­TO­NIAN PHOTO

Thun­der’s Jeff Hen­drix jogs to third base dur­ing the first in­ning of a game against Bowie on Thurs­day night.

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