GLENDALE -- Chicago White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz had to fight back tears Saturday while discussing closer Liam Hendriks' recent cancer diagnosis.
"He's special and everyone in that clubhouse knows that," Katz said while choking up.
Hendriks, 34, announced in early January that he's receiving treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but that hasn't prevented him from being around the team during spring training. He even threw in the bullpen on Friday.
"It brought a lot of joy to be able to see him," Katz said. "He's a special person. Having him around is great."
Hendriks has also been an "inspiration" to his teammates, who say he has the same attitude as ever: upbeat and positive.
"He's been around just about every day," pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "Same exact spirits, same exact Liam that we all know and love."
There's no timetable for Hendriks' full return to baseball, but the team says he's been staying in shape and is hopeful to have some clarity by Opening Day. In the meantime, the White Sox need to fill his role in the back end of the bullpen.
"He'll be back on the field as soon as he can," Katz said. "We have a long time to piece it together. You can't replace him, but we're going to be creative. We have a lot of good options down there."
Righty Kendall Graveman has closing experience and could get the bulk of the save opportunities as the team continues to navigate the stunning news about one of the most popular players in the organization.
"It was pretty devastating," Giolito admitted when he heard about Hendriks' diagnosis last month. "I'm not going to lie. Liam is absolutely a massive part of our team and our family. To see him dealing with sickness like that broke my heart, but I will say he's absolutely killing it right now with his treatments."
Hendriks hasn't spoken publicly since releasing a statement after announcing his diagnosis. He's hopeful he'll be back soon.
"I know with the support of my wife, my family, my teammates and the Chicago White Sox organization, along with the treatment and care from my doctors, I will get through this," the statement said.
Hendriks has saved 75 games for the White Sox over the past two years after signing a three-year, $54 million deal with the team before the 2021 season. He made the All-Star team in each of them.
"We're looking forward to him kicking cancer's ass and coming back to close games for us," Giolito said.