Hendriks, Bellinger named MLB Comeback Players of the Year
Major League Baseball presented its 2023 Comeback Player of the Year awards on Tuesday to a pair of players representing Chicago.
White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks was named the American League's Comeback Player of the Year following his return to the majors after cancer treatment, while Cubs outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger earned National League honors for his excellent bounce-back campaign.
Hendriks won the award despite pitching in only five big-league games this past season, a remarkable achievement following his health struggles. The 34-year-old was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma last December and underwent several months of treatment before being declared cancer-free in April. Hendriks later revealed that he may have unknowingly pitched with cancer during his 2022 All-Star campaign.
Following his clean bill of health, the Australian stopper pitched in six rehab outings before returning to the majors on May 29, barely five months after his diagnosis.
Unfortunately, Hendriks' comeback season was short-lived due to an elbow injury. He was placed on the injured list in June and underwent Tommy John surgery two months later. While he's likely to miss most, if not all, of the 2024 season, the Australia native said in August that he's hoping to be back late next year.
Hendriks is the second White Sox player to be named Comeback Player of the Year, joining Jim Thome in 2006.
Bellinger, meanwhile, looked reborn after joining the Cubs on a one-year contract last winter. In 130 games this year, the 28-year-old hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases while also playing solid defense at both center field and first base. It was his best all-around season since his NL MVP-winning campaign of 2019.
Once one of baseball's brightest young stars with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bellinger's production took a massive dip after suffering a right shoulder injury during the 2020 playoffs. During his final two seasons in L.A., he was a shell of his former self, posting a .611 OPS with only 29 homers in 900 total plate appearances over that span.
In addition to becoming the first Cub to win the award, Bellinger earned this year's NL utility Silver Slugger and finished 10th in NL MVP voting.
Bellinger became a free agent after declining his half of a $25-million mutual option with the Cubs. One of the top position players available this winter, he's expected to sign a long-term deal with his next team.
Voting for the Comeback Player of the Year awards was conducted by MLB.com's 30 beat writers.